The revival of U.S. manufacturing was one of Donald Trump’s central campaign promises and a key accomplishment of his first term in office.
The economy has added 348,000 manufacturing jobs since Trump’s election. Those include 263,000 durable goods manufacturing jobs since Donald Trump’s election. One year ago, durable goods employment hit more than 8 million for the first time since the Great Recession.
On Thursday, Axios declared that the manufacturing renaissance had come to a close. The evidence:
Manufacturing employment has slowed, and in October employers cut jobs in the sector by the highest number in a decade.
October’s purge was blamed largely on striking auto workers, but it followed a clear trend in the industry.
Over the last six months, manufacturing has lost a net 23,000 jobs, and average hours worked has fallen to its lowest level in eight years, according to BLS data.
This reading could have been bolstered by the assessment of ADP and Moody’s Analytics which said the manufacturing sector had shed 6,000 jobs in November.
Fortunately, the report of the death of the manufacturing renaissance appear to be at least premature.
On Friday, the government reported that the economy had added 54,000 jobs, more than undoing the October drop. Total manufacturing jobs are up by 76,000 compared with a year ago. Over the last six months, manufacturing employment is up by nearly 20,000 jobs.
Manufacturing job growth has slowed, as has job growth overall. This year, the manufacturing sector has added a total of 56,000 jobs, the lowest since 2016’s loss of 7,000 and the second lowest since the disastrous 2009. But job growth is expected to decline when unemployment is a record lows and available employees become scarce. Particularly since other sectors of the economy have continued to add jobs as well, the slowdown in manufacturing job growth should not be seen as a dire situation.
Average weekly hours have fallen. But this metric has been falling since August 2018 even as full-time employment in the sector has continued to expand. Exactly why that is remains a mystery since employment and average hours tend to move together. It may be that the larger size of the workforce and the rise in wages is allowing employees to work less or that newly hired employees are putting in fewer hours, pulling down the average.
In any case, the weekly hours average moved up in November, perhaps indicating that the downward trend has reached it ebb.
Axios is no doubt pleased that the manufacturing sector in the U.S. is on a stronger footing than it had assessed a day earlier.