The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that manufacturing job openings declined from 271,000 in March to 245,000 in April. The latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data find that the number of job openings has stayed below 300,000 since June 2012, and April’s figure was the lowest value of 2013. The decline in labor postings perhaps reflects the recent weaknesses in the manufacturing sector, with sales being soft and various sentiment surveys observing very slow growth in activity overall.
With that said, net hiring in the month returned to positive territory. Manufacturers hired 224,000 workers in April, an improvement from the 201,000 new employees added in March. Despite the gain, the pace of hiring remains subpar, having generally stayed below its recent peak of 324,000 in March 2012. Meanwhile, total separations – which include layoffs, quits, and retirements – rose from 203,000 to 218,000. As a result, net hiring (or hiring minus separations) shifted from a decline of 2,000 workers in the sector in March to an increase of 6,000 employees in April. Even with a positive figure, it is clear that the pace of hiring remains quite slow, with manufacturers skittish about adding new workers.
These same trends were also seen in the larger economy, with better news overall on net hiring for total employment. The number of job openings declined from 3,875,000 to 3,757,000. The longer term trend has been positive, with postings up from 3,523,000 the year before. In contrast, net hiring improved from 104,000 to 146,000. In addition to manufacturing, other sectors with increased hiring in April included education and health services, professional and business services, and retail trade.
Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.