JOLTS: Manufacturing Job Openings Were Very Strong in September

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that manufacturing job openings dipped from 435,000 in August—its highest level since January 2001—to 425,000 in September. Overall, though, this data suggests that manufacturers are posting new jobs at a very strong rate, with an improved economic outlook boosting employment growth. To put the current number in perspective, job openings in the sector were 326,000 one year ago. The underlying job openings data in September were mixed. Durable goods firms added posted more jobs in September, up from 248,000 to 255,000, a level not seen since April 2006. In contrast, job openings were lower for nondurable goods businesses for the second straight month, down from 187,000 to 170,000. This could reflect some negative impacts from recent hurricanes, likely making the decrease temporary.

Meanwhile, manufacturing hiring remained positive in September, even as job growth pulled back from more robust paces in July and August. The sector hired 333,000 workers in September, pulling back from August’s level of 359,000, which was nearly a 10-year high. Hiring was reduced for both durable (down from 211,000 to 194,000) and nondurable (down from 148,000 to 139,000) goods firms. At the same time, total separations—including layoffs, quits and retirements—increased from 301,000 to 323,000, its highest level since June 2009. As a result, net hiring (or hires minus separations) fell from 58,000 in August to 10,000 in September. This implies average net hiring of 14,000 workers per months over the past 10 months, which is a relatively healthy growth rate.

Turning to the larger economy, job openings for nonfarm payroll businesses edged up from 6,090,000 in August to 6,093,000 in September. This was just shy of the all-time high recorded in July (6,140,000). In the latest data, the largest monthly increases in postings were in the finance and insurance, government, professional and business services and wholesale trade. Meanwhile, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria restricted net hiring among nonfarm businesses, falling from 147,000 in August to 33,000 in September.

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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