The total U.S. economy and employment pictures sure aren’t anywhere close to normal, but this morning’s official jobs report (for August) looked awfully familiar to anyone who’d been following payrolls in manufacturing before the CCP Virus struck. And the noteworthy result: Industry continues to be a jobs outperformer during this pandemic period.
In contrast to the enormous, and largely automotive-driven swings of previous months, U.S.-based manufacturers added 29,000 net new jobs last month compared with July’s levels. Automotive payrolls shrank by only 5,300.
Moreover, as with the overall non-farm economy (the U.S. government’s definition of the American employment universe), revisions to recent manufacturing results were slightly negative. July’s initially reported 26,000 manufacturing employment increase was revised up to 41,000, but June’s previous estimate of 357,000 (itself revised up) is now judged to have been just 333,000.
This time around, domestic industry’s biggest sequential employment winners in absolute terms were food products (up 12,100), plastics and rubber products (up 6,500), and fabricated metal products (up 5,900). The biggest losers were transportation equipment (whose 8,400 loss includes the 5,300 combined figures for vehicles and parts), non-metallic mineral products (down 4,400), and printing (down 4,100).
In all, from February (the last full month before virus-related shutdowns began dramatically depressing national economic activity) through its April bottom, manufacturing payrolls fell by 1.363 million, or 10.61 percent). Since then, industry has regained 643,000 (or 47.18 percent) of those positions. As a result, manufacturing employment is now 5.60 percent lower than in February, before the virus arrived.
Underscoring manufacturing’s relative resilience during the pandemic-induced recession, between February and April, the American private sector shed 21.191 million workers – a drop of 16.34 percent. Since then, 10.473 million net jobs have been restored (nearly half – 49.42 percent– of the total lost). As a result, private sector employment is now 8.26 percent below those pre-CCP Virus February levels.
In addition, from February through April, total non-farm employment sank by 22.34 million, or 14.64 percent. Since then, a net of 10.611 million (or 47.50 percent) of these jobs have come back, leaing non-farm payrolls 7.57 percent short of their pre-pandemic totals.
But since non-farm payrolls include public sector jobs, this performance will surely weaken if the Democratic-Republican standoff in Washington over economic stimulus stays unresolved for much longer, since one of the main bones of contention is federal aid for state and local governments whose tax revenues have been decimated by the virus and lockdowns.
Further, public sector jobs losses (and the service cuts sure to accompany them) inevitably will bleed into the private sector, as government is an important customer of what the private goods and service companies provide – both in terms of procurement, and in terms of how much government workers and their households consume.
Consequently, without a stimulus agreement, as unsatisfactory as this latest U.S. jobs report was, it might wind up being fondly remembered – including by manufacturers.