Remember Waiting for Godot? For those who haven’t read it, in a (very superficial) nutshell, Samuel Beckett’s 1953 existentialist masterpiece tells the story of two men who keep waiting for someone who never comes despite promises of his arrival that keep getting proved wrong. Think of the play as a world-class literary and philosophical version of the running Peanuts gag involving Lucy holding the football for a Charlie Brown place-kick.
Both Godot and Peanuts came to mind instantly this morning once I digested the new U.S. manufacturing jobs figures (for October). For as has been the case since late March, when President Trump began in imposing tariffs on metals imports, the job-creation performance of American metals-using industries once again defied the doomsayers by generally outperforming job-creation in the rest of domestic manufacturing, and in the U.S. private sector as a whole.
Here are the detailed numbers for October and September (which are still preliminary) and for August (which are now final – until the next major revision):
through August through September through October
entire private sector: +0.68 percent +0.77 percent +0.97 percent
overall manufacturing: +0.61 percent +0.75 percent +0.82 percent
durable goods: +0.82 percent +1.00 percent +1.27 percent
fabricated metals products: +1.09 percent +1.16 percent +1.16 percent
non-electrical machinery: +1.23 percent +1.37 percent +1.80 percent
automotive vehicles & parts: -0.03 percent +0.07 percent +0.78 percent
household appliances: -0.31 percent -0.31 percent not available
aerospace products & parts: +3.12 percent +3.71 percent not available
Consistent with data for the preceding months, the results are somewhat uneven. The automotive and appliances sectors have been under-performing considerably. (The latter, of course, was hit with household laundry machine tariffs a little before the metals tariffs began.) And momentum is slowing in fabricated metals products. But the rate of payroll increases everywhere else keep exceeding those for manufacturing overall, and even the durable goods super-sector – where the metals use in manufacturing is heavily concentrated. In addition, the momentum for motor vehicles and parts is strengthening.
Nothing in economics lasts forever. But the Cassandras who have been claiming both that the metals tariffs will surely decimate American metals-using industries, and that the damage is already visible, clearly need to rethink their narratives. Because with each passing month, they look just as clueless as Vladimir, Estragon…and good old Charlie Brown.