The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that manufacturing job openings declined from 274,000 in February to 260,000 in March, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report. The number of job postings has stayed by 300,000 since July 2012, staying within a narrow range of 240,000 to 275,000 since then. If there is a longer-term trend, it is that the number of job openings in manufacturing appears to have stalled after topping out at 324,000 in March 2012.
This is also consistent with what we are seeing in the net hiring data, which turned negative again in March for manufacturers for the first time since September 2012. Manufacturers hired 200,000 workers in March, the slowest pace in almost 4 years. This is down from 231,000 in February. Meanwhile, total separations – which include layoffs, quits, and retirements – declined from 225,000 to 205,000 for the month. On the positive side, the separations rate is at an all-time low in the JOLTS data’s 13-year history. Nonetheless, net hiring (or hiring minus separations) was -5,000 in March, down from +6,000 in February, reflecting significant weaknesses in the manufacturing sector.
Looking at the larger macroeconomy, there was some easing for job openings and hiring between February and March, but net hiring was still positive. The number of job postings declined from 3,899,000 to 3,844,000, with both figures representing 2.8 percent of total employment. Net hiring was 46,000, down from 271,000 the month before. The greatest monthly gains in hiring in March occurred primarily in the service sector, primarily from professional and business services (up 24,000) and education and health services (up 16,000).
Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.