The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the rate of hiring in the manufacturing sector in May grew to its fastest pace since November 2007. According to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey data, manufacturers hired 332,000 workers in May, up from 314,000 in April. Expressed as a percentage of the total manufacturing workforce, that meant the hiring rate in the sector jumped from 2.5 percent to 2.7 percent, or nearly a 10-year high. Hiring has trended upward across the past nine months since it bottomed out at 268,000 in August. With that said, total separations—including layoffs, quits and retirements—also rose, up from 317,000 to 327,000, with the separations rate unchanged at 2.6 percent. As a result, net hiring (or hires minus separations) increased by 5,000 in May, rebounding from a loss of 3,000 workers in April.
Meanwhile, manufacturing job openings pulled back for the second straight month, down from 404,000 in March, to 365,000 in April, to 343,000 in May. In the most recent data, job postings fell for both durable (down from 207,000 to 199,000) and nondurable (down from 158,000 to 144,000) firms. Nonetheless, job openings among manufacturers have averaged 367,000 year to date in 2017, an improvement from the average of 342,000 for all of 2016. We would expect stronger job openings data moving forward, especially given recent improvements in the economic outlook for the sector, and this should lead to better hiring figures.
Similar trends occurred in the larger economy. Nonfarm payroll hiring jumped from 5,043,000 in April to 5,472,000 in May, its highest level since November 2006. The hiring rate rose to 3.7 percent, up from 3.5 percent, with growth in every major industry. Total separations increased from 5,008,000 to 5,259,000, suggesting net hiring of 213,000 in May. Beyond those figures, nonfarm job openings declined from 5,967,000 to 5,666,000 in this report, mirroring the deceleration in the manufacturing data.