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IndustryNet Blog

U.S. adds record number of manufacturing jobs in 2018

Posted by IndustryNet on Friday, January 4, 2019

young manufacturing worker with  beard and safety glassesThe U.S economy added 312,000 jobs in December, while the unemployment rate rose to 3.9%, as more workers entered the labor force, according to a report released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The nation’s manufacturing sector once again added a significant number of jobs, up 32,000 in the month of December alone.

Durable goods manufacturing accounted for a notable share of jobs, up 19,000. Of these 19,000, fabricated metal products added 7,000 jobs, and electronic products added 4,000 positions.

The grand total of factory jobs gained over the year totaled 284,000 – with three-fourths of these positions in the durable goods category. This adds to the 207,000 manufacturing jobs the Bureau of Labor statistics reported the nation gained in 2017.

2018 now stands as the best year for manufacturing employment gains in the post-recession era. The number of factory jobs in the U.S. (12,842,000) stands roughly at the same level as in December 2008 (12,850,000).

Looking at the job market as a whole, December’s 312,000-job gain was led by health care (+50,000); professional and business services (+43,000) food services and drinking places (+41,000); and construction (+38,000).

December’s job gain came as a surprise to many economists, who expected the increase to be closer to 170,000.

Looking back at 2018, last month’s employment gain was the second-strongest of the year, overshadowed slightly by a 324,000 increase in February of 2018.jobgain2018

Manufacturing slowdown concerns

Today’s job report coincides with a sobering report released January 3rd from the Institute for Supply Management, which found that U.S. manufacturing activity slowed to its lowest level in two years.

U.S. industrial activity now stands at 54.1%, down 5.2% from November’s reading of 59.3%.

Related: U.S. manufacturing activity sinks to two-year low

The index sank at a rate not seen since 2008 – echoing the dark days of the recession, and a number of economists have predicted a deceleration in economic growth in 2019.

Most concerning in the ISM’s New Orders Index, which tanked 11 percentage points after a long run of strong readings. The New Orders index is now skirting contraction with a reading of 51.1% and stands at its lowest level since August of 2016.

However, the ISM’s manufacturing index continues to hit record highs, with new orders, production and employment generally on a path of acceleration.

A number of factors are influencing the U.S. manufacturing sector right now, including tax reform, tariffs, and the USMCA. Executives surveyed by the ISM have generally expressed both optimism and caution throughout the year.

It should be noted that this past month’s 54.1% reading is still above the 50% mark indicative of expansion. December stands as the 34th consecutive month of growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector, and the 116th straight month of growth in the economy overall.

Recent analysis of state data collected by IndustryNet have also recorded strong growth in manufacturing employment for Georgia, South Carolina, Connecticut, and Maryland/DC. You can read all of IndustryNet’s in-depth state reports here.

About IndustryNet

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