The Bureau of Labor Statistics said manufacturing hiring remained robust in August, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) figures. The sector hired 352,000 workers in August, edging down from 353,000 in July. The pace of hiring in both months was the best since November 2007. In August, increased hiring at durable goods firms (up from 205,000 to 212,000, its highest level since November 2007) was essentially offset by reduced hiring for nondurable goods businesses (down from 148,000 to 140,000). At the same time, total separations—including layoffs, quits and retirements—fell from 320,000 to 304,000, a six-month low. As a result, net hiring (or hires minus separations) jumped from 33,000 in July to 48,000 in August.
Meanwhile, manufacturing job openings pulled back again from June’s 16½-year high of 419,000 to 414,000 in July and 397,000 in August. Despite some easing, job postings in the sector have largely trended higher, up from 339,000 one year ago. Indeed, durable goods manufacturers posted 238,000 job openings in August, up from 207,000 in July and its fastest pace since July 2007. Yet, the decline in August came largely from a deceleration among nondurable goods firms (down from 207,000 to 159,000). This could suggest some negative impacts from Hurricane Harvey, making it a temporary decline. 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.
Turning to the larger economy, nonfarm payroll businesses also had healthy job openings activity, even with a slight pullback from 6,140,000 in July to 6,082,000 in August. July’s job posting level was an all-time high in the survey’s 17-year history. In the latest data, the largest monthly increases in postings were in the construction, education and health services, financial activities, government, information and trade, transportation and utilities segments. Moreover, net hiring in the nonfarm sector increased from 159,000 in July to 202,000 in August.