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February’s preliminary U.S. manufacturing jobs figures showed that the sector boosted payrolls by 28,000 – its best performance since the same total for January, 2016, but that its jobs recession continued, with employment down on net since that month. Manufacturing wage growth, moreover, showed some weakness, as average hourly pay improved by just 0.04 percent on month (lagging the overall private sector) and the yearly improvement of 2.89 percent was mediocre by the last few months’ standards.

The positive manufacturing jobs revisions for December and January brightened former President Obama’s record for employment creation in the sector, but the increase still fell short of his stated second term goal of creating one million new positions in industry by 625,000.

Despite the good February monthly advance – plus the sector’s first annual employment increase (7,000) since last July – manufacturing jobs as a share of the non-farm total hit a new record low of 8.49 percent. Nor did the February results change manufacturing’s status as an American employment and wages laggard. Since the mid-2009 onset of the current economic recovery, industry employment is up only 5.59 percent, versus the 11.28 percent for the nation as a whole, and pre-inflation wages have risen by 14.51 percent versus the 17.84 percent rise for the entire private sector.

Here’s my analysis of the latest monthly (February) manufacturing figures contained in this morning’s employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

>The first full (though preliminary) monthly tally of President Trump’s manufacturing job creation record showed that even a strong February – which saw industry’s payrolls grow by 28,000 on net – wasn’t enough to pull the sector out of its latest jobs recession.

>Although the February results were manufacturing’s best since January, 2016’s (which were identical), the sector’s employment is still below that month’s total by 5,000 on net.

>In addition, manufacturing wages displayed signs of weakness in February. Their pre-inflation sequential increase of 0.04 percent trailed that of the overall private sector (0.23 percent) for the second straight month.

>Year-on-year, however, manufacturing’s wage performance looks better. Hourly pay rose by 2.89 percent versus the 2.80 percent figure for the private sector. Manufacturing held the edge in January, too, but the gap was wider (2.89 percent versus 2.60 percent).

>The new Labor Department release also showed that former President Obama’s record as a manufacturing jobs creator was somewhat better than previously reported. Net new manufacturing jobs still rose much less (a total of 375,000) than the one million goal he set for his second term. But positive revisions for January and February boosted manufacturing positions by 13,000 during those years.

>The last three months’ totals also did nothing to halt the historic slide in manufacturing’s share of total non-farm employment. In February, this figure hit a new record low of 8.49 percent.

>On the brighter side, the February yearly manufacturing jobs increase of 7,000 was the first such advance since the 7,000 annual growth last July.  Nonetheless, it compared poorly with the 69,000 year-on-year gain reported for the previous Februarys.  

>Even so, manufacturing remains a jobs and wages laggard during the current economic recovery. Since the economy returned to expansion mode in June, 2009, industry employment is up by only 5.59 percent – less than half the 11.28 percent advance recorded by the private sector as a whole.

>Since its 2010 employment bottom, manufacturing has now regained 929,000 (40.51 percent) of the 2.293 million jobs it lost during the recession and its aftermath. By contrast, the private sector overall lost 8.801 million jobs from the recession’s December, 2007 onset through its February, 2010 absolute employment low. Since then, it has increased net employment by 16.217 million.

>Moreover, whereas total private sector employment is now 6.41 percent higher than at the recession’s beginning, in late 2007, manufacturing employment is still 9.92 percent lower.

>On the wage front, pre-inflation manufacturing pay has risen by 14.51 percent during this recovery – again slower than the 17.84 percent for the entire private sector.

>Adjusting for inflation, manufacturing’s wage performance looks much worse. The latest figures only cover January, but they show that real hourly pay in the sector is up only 0.65 percent since the recovery began in mid-2009 – more than seven years ago. Real wages in the private sector overall are up 3.39 percent.