The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that manufacturing job openings edged slightly higher, up from 242,000 in December to 245,000 in January. However, this remains below the 271,000 level observed in November and the 255,000 pace seen in January 2012. It is clear that there was a deceleration in job postings in the second half of 2012, which has continued moving into the new year.
Meanwhile, net hiring is also a persistent challenge. Manufacturers hired an additional 212,000 workers in January, down from 236,000 in December. This is the slowest pace since June 2009, representing significant skittishness on the part of manufacturers to bring on new workers to begin 2013. At the same time, manufacturing separations decreased from 231,000 to 217,000 for the month. Net hiring, therefore, shifted from a gain of 5,000 new workers in December to a net separation of 5,000 in January. This is the first decrease in net hiring since September.
Looking at the larger economy, net hiring increased from 133,000 to 145,000 between December and January. Job postings and hiring rose, albeit modestly. The rate of hiring as a percentage of the labor market was unchanged at 3.1 percent.
Note that the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data provide additional information beyond what we already knew about the labor market from the monthly jobs numbers, with a one-month time lag. Last week, we learned that manufacturers hired an additional 14,000 net new workers in February, suggesting that the next JOLTS report might be more positive.
Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.