JOLTS: Solid Manufacturing Hiring Data in 2017

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that net hiring among manufacturers remained solid in December, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report. The manufacturing sector hired 352,000 workers in December, up from 343,000 in November and not far from August’s level of 359,000, which was nearly a 10-year high. Hiring increased for durable goods firms in December, up from 196,000 to 205,000, but was unchanged for nondurable goods manufacturers at 147,000.

At the same time, total separations—including layoffs, quits and retirements—rose from 317,000 to 329,000, an 8-year high. As a result, net hiring (or hires minus separations) declined from 26,000 in November to 23,000 in December. More importantly, though, net hiring has averaged a very healthy 31,500 over the past five months, or 18,500 in 2017. That suggests that the labor market in manufacturing has been quite robust, especially as the economic outlook has strengthened.  

Nonetheless, manufacturing job openings decelerated at year’s end, down from 404,000 in November to 364,000 in December. It was the first reading for job postings below 600,000 since May. Nonetheless, it is clear that the pace of job openings has picked up overall. Monthly job openings in the sector averaged 393,667 in 2017, up from 341,750 in 2016. The underlying job openings data in December were lower for both durable (down 248,000 to 228,000) and nondurable (down from 156,000 to 136,000) goods businesses.

Moving forward in 2018, we would anticipate renewed strength for job openings in the coming months.

Turning to the larger economy, job openings for nonfarm payroll businesses slipped from 5,978,000 in November to 5,811,000 in December, its lowest level since May, mirroring the manufacturing data. It was the third consecutive month with job postings below 6 million, with total job openings pulling back from the all-time high recorded in July (6,140,000). In the latest data, sectors with increased job openings in December included education and health services, financial activities, government, information, leisure and hospitality, mining and logging and wholesale trade. Meanwhile, net hiring among nonfarm businesses continued to be healthy, at 281,000 and 250,000 in November and December, respectively.

Chad Moutray

Chad Moutray

Chad Moutray is chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Director of the Center for Manufacturing Research for The Manufacturing Institute, where he serves as the NAM’s economic forecaster and spokesperson on economic issues. He frequently comments on current economic conditions for manufacturers through professional presentations and media interviews. He has appeared on Bloomberg, CNBC, C-SPAN, Fox Business and Fox News, among other news outlets.
Chad Moutray

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