No doubt about it now – at least for now. As yesterday’s official U.S. employment data (for December) confirm, domestic manufacturing is experiencing a pronounced job-creation slowdown.
Of course, these latest figures, as well as November’s, are still preliminary. But it would take mammoth revisions to change this narrative. U.S.-based manufacturers upped their payrolls by only 8,000 on month in December. On top of the same (downwardly revised) November employee increase, those last two data months have each seen industry’s weakest job gains since the 28,000 loss suffered in April, 2021. And the new October and November figures are downgrades, too.
Another perspective: During the first half of this year, manufacturing employment rose by an average of 39,830. So far, during the second half of the year, this monthly average is down to 23,330.
Moreover, the unimpressive recent results have placed the private sector overall ahead of manufacturing as an employment generator during the post-CCP Virus period. Since February, 2020 – the last full data month before the pandemic began hammering and roiling the economy – the former’s head counts are up 1.29 percent versus 1.17 percent for manufacturing. Last month, manufacturing held the lead by 1.17 percent to 1.16 percent. (Government payrolls at all levels are still down by 1.91 percent during this stretch.
Consequently, manufacturing’s share of total U.S. private sector jobs slipped for the second straight month – from 9.86 percent to 9.85 percent. But industry’s strong two years of hiring mean that this percentage is still higher than the immediate pre-CCP Virus level of 9.83 percent. And the December results still left the manufacturing workforce at its highest level (12.934 million) since November, 2008’s 13.034 million.
Nonetheless, the December jobs report was by no means devoid of bright spots, as the rundown that follows will show that several major industries created gobs of jobs during the month.
December’s biggest manufacturing jobs winners among the broadest sub-sectors tracked by the U.S. Labor Department were:
>transportation equipment, a big, diverse grouping boosted employment by 15,200 in December – its best such performance since August’s 20,900. Revisions were mixed, with November’s initially reported 6,100 advance downgraded to one of 4,500; October’s initially reported 4,700 increased revised way up to 13,200, and then again to 14,500; and September’s original 8,400 increase downgraded to 4,700 but then revised up to settle at 6,300.
Employment in transportation equipment is now 1.94 percent higher than in the last full pre-CCP Virus data month of February, 2020, versus the 1.08 percent calculable last month;
>non-metallic mineral products, where payrolls improved by 4,500 in December in the best monthly performance since December, 2020’s 5,200. Revisions were mixed here, too. November’s initially reported 1,800 gain is now recorded as a loss of 800; October’s results have gone from an increase of 3,200 to one of 2,900 and back to 3,000; and September’s initially reported 1,500 job loss was revised up to a dip of just 200 before settling at a decrease of 300.
The non-metallic mineral products workforce has now expanded by 0.57 percent since immediately pre-pandemic-y February, 2020, versus the 0.01 percent calculable last month.
>machinery, a bellwether for the entire economy, since its products are so widely used in both manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors, enjoyed job growth of 3,300 in December. Revisions were positive overall. November’s advance of 3,900 was revised up to one of 4,200 – its best monthly increase since April’s 5,800. October’s initially reported 3,000 increase was upgraded to 3,600 but then revised back down to the original 3,000. But September’s initially reported 1,700 decrease (then the sector’s worst such total since November, 2021’s 7,000 plunge) was upgraded to a decline of just 300, where it finally settled.
This performance moved machinery’s head count to within 0.28 percent of its February, 2020 level, versus the 0.55 gap percent calculable last month;
>food manufacturing, another big industry, which saw employment rise by 3,300 in December. Revisions were overall positive. November’s initially reported 3,400 increase is now judged to have been 4,200. October’s initially reported 1,000 rise was downgraded to 500, but then revised back up to 900. And although September’s initially reported 7,800 job growth was ultimately revised down to 7,600, it was still the sector’s best such performance since February’s 11,100.
The food manufacturing workforce has now expanded by 3.80 percent since just before the pandemic’s arrival in force, versus the 3.52 percent calculable last month; and`
>fabricated metal products, another sizable sector, upped employment by 2,900 in December, and revisions were mixed. November’s net new hires were revised down from 1,300 to 500. October’s results were at first downgraded from a 5,200 increase to one of 5,000, but then revised up to 6,600 (the strongest such number since April’s identical increase. But September’s initially reported advance of 6,300 has been downgraded significantly, to 5,500 and then finally to 2,300.
Job levels in fabricated metal products is now off by 0.93 percent since February, 2020, versus a 1.18 percent shortfall calculable last month.
The biggest December jobs losers among the broadest manufacturing categories were:
>chemicals, a big category whose 5,700 employment contraction in December was its first drop since August, 2021 and by far the worst since the 20,000 nosedive of April, 2020, when the devastating effects of the CCP Virus’ first wave were peaking. Revisions, moreover, were negative on net. November’s initially reported 4,700 head count climb (then chemicals’ best result since May’s 5,100 improvement) to 3,600. After having been upgraded from 1,600 to 2,200, October’s rise was revised down to 1,700. But September’s initially reported 3,400 increase was downgraded to one of 2,700 before being upgraded again to its final level of 3,200.
The chemicals workforce is now 6.47 percent greater than in immediately pre-pandemic-y February, 2020 – down from the 7.32 percent increase calculable last month;
>petroleum and coal products, a sector whose payrolls weakened by 3,300 in December – its worst such performance since the 3,500 jobs lost in winter weather-affected January, 2021. Revisions were mixed, though. November’s initially reported 900 jobs added now stands at 1,100 (the best such increase since February’s 2,000). October’s results bounced up from an initially reported employment dip of 100 to a gain of 200 and back to a 100 loss. And September’s initially reported head count advance of 300 has stayed upgaded to 400 for three months.
But the December fall-off dragged petroleum and coal products employment down to 8.31 percent below its level just before the pandemic’s arrival in force, versus the 5.31 percent gap calculable last month;
>furniture and related products, whose 2,900 employment decrease was its worst since the 73,900 catastrophe suffered in April, 2020 – during the height of the pandemic’s first wave. Revisions, moreover, were significantly negative – no surprise given the recent woes of the nation’s housing sector. November’s initially reported slump of 1,500 is now estimated at 1,900. October’s results have deteriorated from a slip of 200 to one of 400. And September’s initially reported 300 decrease now stands at one of 600.
These employment setbacks have pushed the furniture industry’s workforce down to 2.31 percent below its February, 2020 levels, versus the 1.33 percent calculable last month; and
>miscellaneous nondurable goods, which also reduced its payrolls by 2,900 in December, and whose revisions were negative on net. November’s initially reported jobs gain of 1,200 is now pegged as a retreat of 3,300 – these companies’ worst such performance since they cut 9,400 positions in December, 2020. After October’s gain of 2,100 was upgraded to one of 3,300, it was lowered to 2,700 – which at least was still the best such performance since June’s 5,400. But September’s results have been revised up from 1,300 net new hires to 2,000 and have settled at 2,300.
This diverse group of industries’ have now enlarged their workforce by 9,68 percent since immediately pre-pandemic-y February, 2020, versus the 12.13 percent calculable last month.
As known by RealityChek regulars, throughout the CCP Virus period, the automotive industry’s employment gyrations have influenced manufacturing’s overall hiring, and in December, as with other sectors examined above, its robust job creation helped keep industry’s monthly total in the black.
Indeed, U.S.-based vehicle and parts makers added 7,400 workers on month, and revisions were positive. November’s initially reported increase of 1,900 was revised up to 2,300 – though this result was still these industries’ weakest since they shed 7,400 employees in May. But October’s initially reported rise of 4,800 has been upgraded twice – to 7,500 and then to 9,000. And September’s results have been revised from 8,300 to 7,400 and then bsck up to 9,000 – where they’ve remained.
All told, automotive’s jobs numbers are now 5.11 percent higher than in February, 2020, versus the 4.17 percent calculable last month.
RealityChek has also been following several other industries of specical interest during the pandemic era whose results are always a month behind those of the above categories. And on the whole, they expanded job creation modestly in November.
In the semiconductor sector, whose shortages have handicapped so many other industries, and which will now benefit from massive government subdidies aimed at reviving domestic production, head counts rose by 1,200, and revisions were mixed. October’s initially reported increase of 2,300 was downgraded to one of 2,200 – a total that was still the best since June, 2020’s 3,000, during the recovery from the first CCP Virus wave. But September’s figures remained donwardly revised from an initially reported gain of 800 to a loss of 1,000.
The semiconductor workforce is now 6.60 percent larger than in immediately pre-pandemic-y February, 2020, versus the 6.01 percent calculable last month.
Aerospace manufacturers were especially hard hit by the CCP Virus-era travel bans and by individuals’ reluctance to fly. But with normalization returning, these companies’ revived hiring continued on balance in November.
Aircraft makers enlarged their workforce by 300 – a performance that was actually their weakest since they cut 800 positions in January. Revisions were slightly negative, however, with October’s initially reported 3,900 revised down to 3,800 – still the sector’s best such performance since June, 2021’s 4,400 jump. And September’s initially reported advance of 1,300 stayed at a downwardly revised 1,200.
As a result, aircraft employment crept to within 5.77 percent of its immediate pre-pandemic level, versus the 5.85 percent calculable last month.
In aircraft engines- and engine parts-makers, payrolls grew by 500, and revisions were positive. October’s initially reported improvement of 700 was upgraded to one of 800, and September’s 100 job loss has remained unrevised. Employment in these industries has now contracted by 7.42 percent since February, 2020, versus the 8.83 percent calculable last month.
The exceptions to this pattern of stronger November hiring were the non-engine aircraft parts- and equipment sectors. They cut payrolls by 400 in November, and revisions were slightly negative. October’s initially reported gain of 100 was revised down to no change, and Smbeepter’s contraction stayed at 700 after having been downgraded from a loss of 500. These results left employment among these companies off by 14.45 percent during the CCP Virus era, versus the 14.36 percent calculable last month.
The healthcare manufacturers that have occupied the spotlight since the pandemic began generally added jobs in November, too. But the surgical appliances and supplies makers that turn out so many of the products used to fight the CCP Virus weren’t among them.
These companies shrank their workfoce by 800 in November in their weakest performance since identical cuts in June, and revisions were negative on balance. October’s initially reported hiring flatline was revised up to an increase of 600 – their best employment month since they added 900 positions in August. But September’s results have been downgraded to a decline of 300 after having been revised up from an advance of 1,000 to one of 1,200.
These ups and downs left this sector’s workforce just 4.83 percent larger than in immediately pre-pandemic-y February, 2020 –much lower than the 11.64 percent growth calculable last month.
By contrast, the big pharmaceuticals and medicines category boosted employment by 2,200 in November – its best such performance since June’s 4,000. Revisions were positive, too. October’s initially reported increase of 600 (which I erroneously reported last month as a flatline) was downgraded to 500, but September’s advances have been revised up from 200 to 500 to 1,200.
During the CCP Virus era, this sector has upped employment by 12.51 percent, versus the 11.64 percent calculable last month.
Finally, the medicines subsector containing vaccines hired 700 net new workers in November, but revisions were mixed. October’s initially reported gain of 600 was upgraded to one of 900 – the best improvement since the identical addition in June. But September’s results have been revised down from a rise of 500 to one of 300 after having been initially reported as a 200 increase.
Still, employment in this vaccines-centric grouping is now 27.31 percent higher than just before the pandemic hit the United States in force, versus the 26.29 percent calculable last month.
The substantial hiring increases in major industries like automotive and fabricated metals products make it difficult to forecast a significant downturn in manufacturing job creation during the next few months. And the strong job creation in machinery is especially encouraging, since it seems to indicate that companies throughout industry and the rest of the economy are ordering its products in anticipation of continued solid demand from their customers.
At the same time, the chemicals sector also provides inputs for many other industries, and its December job cuts could presage, at a minimum, a softening of activity in manufacturing and beyond. And since it began acknowledging inflation’s seriousness, the Federal Reserve seems as determined as ever to achieve such softening in order bring prices under control.
Right now, the safest bet seems to be that manufacturing job creation stays subdued, and even loses more momentum.