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The manufacturing jobs picture revealed in this morning’s October official U.S. jobs report was a classic glass-half-empty/half-full story. But for the first time since the employment rebound from its CCP Virus-induced lows, the gloomier view seems to have the edge – though a modest one. The main reason: In October, the rate of cumulative manufacturing job creation fell slightly behind that of the U.S. government’s entire employment universe (so-called non-farm payrolls, or NFP), and of the private sector.

Domestic industry increased its employment level on net by 38,000 in October on a sequential basis. That figure represented a decrease from the September total – which has been revised down from 66,000 to 60,000. But it’s an improvement over August’s also downwardly revised 30,000 total.

In addition, as opposed to dominating the manufacturing jobs picture for good and ill, as it has during the pandemic recovery period, automotive jobs, rose by a mere 1,400. The downward revision in combined vehicle and parts payrolls in September, however (from 14,300 to 7,700) did account for more than all of the total downward manufacturing revision for the month.

October’s manufacturing net jobs-creation leaders were fabricated metals products (7,200), food manufacturing (6,200), primary metals (6,000), and machinery (3,900). The first two categories enjoyed their second straight month of relatively strong job improvement, while the primary metals gain amounted to an important turnaround from September’s 3,400 net employment loss.

At the same time the October machinery results – important because that sector influences so much manufacturing activity overall, and because of its close connections to non-manufacturing industries like agriculture and construction) – were much less impressive than the 12,600 employment rise of September. Worse, this figure itself was downgraded from the initially reported 13,800.

The only significant October jobs loser in manufacturing was transportation equipment. This large category – which includes automotive – shed 2,400 jobs on net. The big problem here was motor vehicle parts, where employment fell by 2,800.

October’s employment progress means that manufacturing overall has regained 742,000 (54.44 percent) of the 1.363 million jobs it lost during the worst of the CCP Virus economic slump of March and April. (Those earlier job losses represented 10.61 percent of the last pre-virus – February – manufacturing employment level.)

As of October, non-farm payrolls total had regained 12.070 million (54.47 percent) of the 22.160 million total decrease they suffered in March and April. So although by this definition, overall U.S. employment plunged by 14.53 percent during the virus low point – more proportionately than manufacturing) — the rate of its jobs rebound is now slightly faster.

Faster still has been the bounceback in private sector jobs. Non-government employment (whose status is much more revealing of the economy’s fundamentals than government employment) fell by 21.191 million in March and April combined – greater relative losses (16.34 percent) than experienced either by manufacturing or the non-farm sector. But its strong October performance mean that it’s regained 12.317 million of these position on net – an increase of 58.12 percent.

But as if the CCP Virus and its decimation of the economy haven’t created enough uncertainties for manufacturing employment (and for the economy as a whole), this week’s Election 2020 results could further muddy the waters – especially if the White House changes hands. Despite October’s jobs slowdown, industry’s employment and output have held up well, due no doubt significantly to President Trump’s tariff-centric trade policies and domestic overhauls in taxes and regulations. The Trump manufacturing record pre-virus has also been strong. Would a Biden administration reversal of these moves put U.S. manufacturing back behind the eight-ball? Or would it find new alternative growth fuels for industry?