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The manufacturing employment growth slowdown that began in early summer continued in November, according to the latest monthly U.S. jobs report released by the Labor Department this morning. Moreover, industry’s cumulative employment-creation rate of increase during the CCP Virus rebound period fell further behind that of the overall American private sector.

Domestic manufacturers added a net 27,000 workers to their payrolls in November – the weakest rise since August’s 30,000. As recently as June, such industrial jobs jumped by 333,000. Moreover, revisions were slightly negative. September’s monthly 60,000 gain was unchanged, but the October improvement was reduced from 38,000 to 33,000.

In a return to early rebound-period patterns, automotive employment dominated the November picture for manufacturing, as vehicle and parts makers accounted for well over half (15,400) of the sequential payrolls expansion.

Other job-creation winners for November included plastics and rubber products (4,600 of the total 5,000 job gains for the non-durable goods super-sector); furniture (3,100); and miscellaneous durable goods manufacturing (2,500 – this category includes much virus-related medical equipment, more on which below).

Monthly employment losses in manufacturing were small by sector, but widespread. The worst results were turned in by fabricated metals products (2,000), the big chemicals sector (1,900), primary metals (1,700), and apparel (1,500).

Somewhat encouragingly, the large bellwether machinery sector managed to add to its payrolls, but the increase was just 1,900, and the October rise was revised down from 3,900 to 3,000.

As of November, manufacturing had regained 764,000 (56.05 percent) of the 1.363 million jobs lost during the worst of the pandemic-induced downturn in March and April. Its employment drop during those months represented 10.61 percent of its payrolls level in February – the last pre-virus month.

That rate of improvement is still faster than that of the economy overall: Non-farm payrolls (the Labor Department’s U.S. employment universe) have recovered 12.326 million (55.62 percent) of their March and April losses.

But this economy-wide total was held back by the 99,000 public sector jobs lost in November, due overwhelmingly to the federal government’s release of 93,000 workers hired temporarily to help conduct the 2020 Census. At the same time, state and local government employment levels were little changed last month, and they could wind up implementing major job cuts unless Washington approves CCP Virus relief for them. So the cumulative manufacturing numbers may well continue looking better than the overall non-farm payrolls numbers for the next few months at least, but for all the wrong reasons.

And accordingly, as of November, the overall private sector has regained 12.670 million (59.79 percent) of the 21.191 million jobs it shed during the worst pandemic months.

The employment figures for the CCP Virus-related medical manufacturing categories only go through October, but given the scale of the pandemic and the demand for these products, their jobs gains have been surprisingly negligible since the worst of the virus-induced recession.

For example, the broad pharmaceuticals and medicines sector added only 100 workers on net in October, and has increased its payrolls by only 0.74 percent since February and 1.01 percent since April. It’s true that its job losses were minimal (0.26 percent in March and April). But the recent increases still look meager given the nation’s months-long health emergency.

Within this category, the sub-sector including vaccines hired 600 net new employees in October, bringing its jobs gains to 1.26 percent since February, and 3.42 percent since April – also reflecting modest job losses suffered in February and March. And of course, due to recent announcements of promising vaccines and the likelihood of huge production ramps, the employment picture here will bear close watching in the months ahead.

The employment performance of the manufacturing category containing PPE goods like face masks, gloves, and medical gowns has been stronger. In October, its payrolls expanded by 400, and they’re up 7.38 percent since February, and actually grew slightly during March and April, too.

Of course, numerous wild cards are likely to impact domestic industry’s job-creation record going forward. But their net effect is difficult to forecast now, for any number of reasons. How much bigger will the virus’ second wave become? Will pandemic relief be approved in Washington, and how big will any package be? Will economic growth continue whether such legislation is passed or not?

That vaccine sector doesn’t look big enough to affect overall manufacturing job totals. But resumed production of Boeing’s safety-troubled 737 Max model and of aerospace manufacturing generally due to an overall national and global recovery would be substantial. And finally, will apparent President-elect Joe Biden lift any of President Trump’s steep, sweeping China tariffs? With this many uncertainties still clouding the picture, it could be many months before a manufacturing New Normal emerges – and with it, the prospect of figuring out exactly how healthy or sickly domestic industry’s fundamentals really are.