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America’s domestic manufacturing delivered no fewer than two upside employment surprises in April, according to today’s latest U.S. Labor Department report. Despite persistent reports of U.S.-based industry’s mounting woes (here‘s one of the most recent), the sector added 11,000 jobs on net last month – not world-beating, but its best such performance since January’s identical number.

And revisions showed that the two-month employment losing streak manufacturing had experienced as of last month’s data…wasn’t. Specifically, February’s originally reported 4,000 monthly manufacturing headcount drop has now been revised to a gain – most recently of 3,000.

At the same time, the revisions were overall slightly negative, because of the downgrade of March’s results from a drop of 1,000 to one of 8,000. If that figure holds, it will represent the sector’s first setback since the 32,000 sequential nosedive in April, 2021 that stemmed largely from the automotive sector’s problems securing semiconductor supplies.

On the plus side, however, these manufacturing revisions weren’t nearly as bad as those for the previous two months revealed in the new report on “non-farm payrolls” (the Labor Department’s definition of the American jobs universe).

In fact, although the new data left domestic manufacturing as a national job-creation laggard, this status essentially stopped deteriorating in April.

Since February, 2020 – the last full data month before the CCP Virus pandemic began hammering and distorting the entire economy – manufacturing headcounts have risen by 1.61 percent. That’s a slight improvement over the 1.55 percent calculable from last month’s NFP release.

Total employment is now up 2.17 percent during this period, versus the 2,10 percent calculable last month. And the workforce for the private sector as a whole has grown by 2.78 percent, versus the 2.71 percent calculable last month.

Consequently, as of the the April results, manufacturing represented 8.35 percent of all NFP jobs – the same share calculable from the previous employment report but higher than the 8.39 percent it hit just before the pandemic’s arrival in force state-side. And it accounted for 9.76 percent of all private sector jobs – also the same as last month’s share but lower than the 9.87 percent from February, 2020. (The difference stems from still-depressed levels of public sector employment, which is part of that NFP category.)

April’s biggest jobs winners among the broadest manufacturing sub-sectors tracked by Washington were highly concentrated in a handful of industries:

>the big, diverse transportation equipment sector, which enjoyed its third straight month of strong job creation by boosting employment on month in April by 6,700. Payrolls in these companies are now up by 3.81 percent since immediately pre-pandemic-y February, 2020, versus the 3.33 percent calculable last month;

>fabricated metal products, another big sector, where the workforce expanded by 6,300 – its strongest such showing since February, 2022’s 6,900. Moreover, revisions were positive, including a February result initially reported as a drop of 1,100, then downgraded to one of 1,200, but now recorded as a gain of 300. This progress pulled fabicated metals payrolls from the 1.45 percent below their February, 2020 levels calculable last month to witin 0.94 percent; and

>computer and electronic products, where an increase of 3,200 workers was its best monthly performance since last October’s 3,300. Employment in these industries has now advanced by 1.95 percent during the (ongoing) CCP Virus period, versus the 1.70 percent calculable as of last month.

April’s biggest losers among these broad groupings were:

>paper manufacturing, which lost 2,700 employees in its worst such performance since the 4,600 fall-off two Aprils ago. Now down 2.62 percent versus 1.29 calculable last month.

>electrical equipment, appliance, and components, where cuts of 2,600 jobs were made for the second straight month. This loss dragged this grouping’s post-February, 2020 head count gains down to 0.98 percent from the 1.71 percent calculable last month; and

>non-metallic mineral products, where a sequential employment decline of 2,300 represented both the third monthly drop in a row and the biggest since March, 2022’s 5,000. Payrolls in this sector are now 2.19 percent above their immediate pre-pandemic level, versus the 2.81 percent improvement calculable last month.

RealityChek has tracked two industries consistently since the virus began destabilizing the U.S. economy: machinery, because its products are used so widely throughout manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors that it’s a good barometer of industry’s health; and automotive, because its fortunes have so often and so heavily influenced determined those of manufacturing as a whole during the pandemic period.

As a result, the former’s weak April job growth of 200 wasn’t especially good news. Nor was the sharp downward revision of March’s initially reported 3,800 increase (which had been the biggest since November’s 5,800) to just 1,900. Due to these results, machinery’s employment is up just 1.24 percent since the last pre-pandemic full data month of February, 2020 versus the 1.55 percent calculable last month.

By contrast, vehicle and parts makers added 5,800 new workers in April, extended a string of hiring gains to four months, and turned in their best performance since December’s 9,500 binge. Revisions, moreover, were strongly positive, including a February upgrade from an initially reported increase of 200 to one of 1,300 to one of 3,800. These improvements brought automotive’s post-February, 2020 employment increase up to 7.18 percent from the 6.45 percent calculable last month.

RealityChek has also been monitoring several narrower sectors that have attracted special attention during the CCP Virus era, but where the data are always a month behind those of the above broader sectors, Their aemployment performances (in March) were overall moderately positive.

Although U.S.-based semiconductor companies and their foreign counterparts are slated to receive major government funding to foster domestic production, the sector is now experiencing a global glut for most customer industries. Perhaps that’s why February’s unrevised employment loss of 600 for the semiconductors and related devices category was followed by a gain of only 300 in March – and why this increase was only the first monthly advance since December.

Payrolls in this sector are now up 9.28 percent since just before the pandemic’s arrival in force, versus the 10.20 percent calculable last month.

In aircaft manufacturing, which was damaged by pandemic-era travel curbs and Boeing’s production woes, a strong employment comeback came to a halt in March. Indeed, the month’s drop of 700 was the first such retreat since the 300 jobs shed in January, 2022. Further, February’s initially reported 1,300 hiring burst has been revised down to one of 1,100.

Even so, the aircraft workforce is still just 3.29 percent smaller than in February, 2020, versus the 2.91 percent calculable last month.

Hiring by aircraft engines and engine parts-makers, however, jumped by 1,000 in March – their best such performance since they added 4,800 employees in May, 2020, as they tried to rebound from the devastating first wave of the CCP Virus pandemic. February’s initially reported gain of 900 was downgraded to one of 600, but these companies’ payrolls have now recovered to 6.33 percent below their immediate pre-pandemic total, versus the 7.10 percent shortfall calculable last month.

Non-engine aircraft parts jobs climbed by 600 in March, their fourth straight advance. A stretch that long hasn’t been achieved since these businesses boosted their workforces for six consecutive months between January and June, 2019. Due to these increases, non-engine aircraft jobs are now 14.62 percent fewer than in February, 2020, versus the 15.44 percent gap calculable last month.

As for surgical appliances- and supplies-makers, who turned out many of the products used to fight the virus, their employment remained flat in March. Consequently, their workforces remained 1.23 percent larger than just before the pandemic.

The 400-job gain by the pharmaceuticals and medicines sector pushed their CCP Vius employment growth up to 14.54 percent, versus the 14.41 percent calculable last month.

The pharmaceutical sub-sector that contains vaccines lost 300 jobs in March, but its initially reported February rise of 300 has been revised up to one of 400. Its employee count is now 19.80 percent higher than in immediately pre-pandemic-y February, 2020, versus the 19.90 percent calculable last month.

In the middle of last month, I concluded that the latest official figures on manufacturing output showed the sector to be “spinning its wheels.” These new manufacturing employment numbers seem to be sending the same message – and as with the production data, indicate that industry’s future, like that of the rest of the economy, depending on the fate of domestic demand – and in turn on whether the Federal Reserve will chicken out from its growth-slowing inflation-fighting strategy, and whether and the extent to which politicians will succumb to their traditional temptation to keep voters’ economically happy with robust spending programs, major tax cuts, or some combination of the two.