The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that manufacturing job openings declined from 281,000 in November to 259,000 in December. This finding was consistent with other indicators suggesting that uncertainty related to the fiscal cliff and slowing sales was causing businesses to pull back at year’s end. Indeed, total job postings fell from 3,790,000 in November to 3,617,000 in December. The declines were in most major sectors except for construction and arts, entertainment, and recreation.

With that said, the news was not all bad. Manufacturers did pick up their pace of hiring for the month, up from 241,000 to 251,000. There were signs of higher levels of activity for some manufacturers in November and December (some of it due to Hurricane Sandy), which might explain this increase. Nonetheless, it is important to keep December’s hiring rate in perspective. There were 270,000 hires in June (the high point in 2012), and we ended the year more or less where we began it (with 253,000 hires in January 2012). Essentially, manufacturing employment growth was flat in 2012.

Still, net manufacturing hiring in December was 35,000, up from 4,000 in November. This was due to a sharp decline in manufacturing separations (e.g., layoff, separations, and retirements). Separations decreased from 237,000 in November to 216,000 in December.

Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.

 

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