The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that total hires in manufacturing in February rose to the highest level since June 2008. The sector hired edged up from 304,000 in January to 305,000 in February. This represented notable progress from just 268,000 six months ago. With that said, the underlying data were mixed in February, with nondurable goods hiring up from 139,000 to 149,000 but hiring for durable goods firms down from 165,000 to 156,000. At the same time, total separations – which include quits, layoffs and retirements – decreased from 304,000 to 292,000. Separations were lower for both durable (down from 163,000 to 155,000) and nondurable (down from 141,000 to 137,000) goods manufacturers. Overall, net hiring (or hires minus separations) improved from zero in February to 13,000 in March, its fastest pace in seven months.
Meanwhile, manufacturing job openings have continued to trend higher since weakening last autumn. Postings in the sector rose from 361,000 to 364,000, its highest level since July’s 15-year high (394,000). Job openings in February were higher for durable goods, up from 206,000 to 209,000, but were flat for nondurable goods businesses at 155,000. This report remains encouraging from an openings standpoint, as elevated levels of postings should lead to better hiring numbers down the line.
In the larger economy, nonfarm job openings increased from 5,625,000 in January to 5,743,000 in February. This was the most since the all-time high achieved in March 2016 of 5,852,000, and it has trended upward since bottoming out at 5,491,000 in August. There were more openings in this release for construction, education and health services, government, leisure and hospitality and manufacturing. In addition, net hiring in the overall economy rose from 177,000 in January to 243,000 in February.