The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that manufacturing job openings in December rose to their fastest pace since March 2001. The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) reported that job postings in the sector jumped from 279,000 in November to 365,000 in December. To be fair, the November reading was lower than anticipated, and this latest figure might represent something of a bounce back. Overall, these data suggest that manufacturers have increased the number of job openings over the longer term, with an average of 325,000 postings per month in 2015, up from an average of 290,000 in 2014. The December data reflect increased postings for both durable (up from 167,000 to 193,000) and nondurable (up from 112,000 to 172,000) goods manufacturing firms.
Yet, this uptick in job openings have yet to translate into more net hiring. Manufacturers hired 272,000 workers in December, or just slightly below the 273,000 in November. There was an increase in hiring for durable goods businesses (up from 153,000 to 160,000), but this was offset by a decline for nondurable goods manufacturers (down from 121,000 to 113,000). At the same time, manufacturing job separations – which include quits, layoffs and retirements – dropped from 274,000 to 270,000. As such, net hiring (or hires minus separations) was an increase of 2,000 workers in December. While this was an improvement from the 1,000-worker net decline seen in November, it indicates that hiring remains soft. Hopefully, we will see a rebound in net employment growth in the coming months, particularly if the higher job openings truly serve as a proxy for future activity.
In the larger economy, nonfarm job openings accelerated from 5,346,000 to 5,607,000. This was just shy of the all-time high of 5,668,000 reached in July. There were increased job openings in the following sectors in November: construction, government, manufacturing and retail trade. Beyond job openings, net hiring in the overall economy decreased from 334,000 to 289,000 – a pace that remains relatively decent overall.