The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that manufacturing job openings ticked higher, up from 314,000 in November to 325,000 in December, a three-month high. Postings in the sector have trended lower since achieving an all-time high of 397,000 in April. On the positive side, this report will hopefully begin a movement in the right direction, and more importantly, job openings remain quite elevated overall, especially relative to net hiring. In 2016, job openings averaged 341,000 per month, up from 311,000 in 2015. In the December data, both durable (up from 181,000 to 183,000) and nondurable (up from 133,000 to 141,000) goods firms had more openings.
Meanwhile, net hiring returned to positive territory in December after declining in November. Total hiring was unchanged at 283,000 in December, with nondurable goods hiring up from 117,000 to 119,000 but with nondurable goods activity down from 166,000 to 163,000. At the same time, total separations – which include quits, layoffs and retirements – eased from 286,000 to 274,000 for the month. Led by a decrease in separations in the durable goods sector, down from 165,000 to 153,000. Overall, net hiring (or hiring minus separations) rose from a decrease of 3,000 workers in November to a gain of 9,000 employees in December.
In the larger economy, nonfarm job openings were little changed, down from 5,505,000 in November to 5,501,000 in December. There were more openings in the latest release for construction, education and health services, financial activities, information, mining and logging, manufacturing, retail trade and transportation, warehousing and utilities. In addition, net hiring in the overall economy accelerated, up from 194,000 in November to 284,000 in December.