Job openings in American factories hit their highest level ever in October, according to data released Wednesday by the Department of Labor.
Manufacturing businesses were looking to hire workers for a seasonally adjusted 525,000 positions in October, up from 492,000 a month earlier. That beat the record high of 502,000 set in November 2018. Openings expanded in both durable and nondurable goods manufacturing.
There were seasonally adjusted 371,000 hires into manufacturing jobs, three thousand fewer than September. Layoffs and discharges moved up to 112,000 from 97,000, producing a very average layoff rate of 0.9 percent.
The strength in manufacturing is the latest sign that American factories have evolved into an important source of stability in an economy buffeted by the pandemic, social distancing, and lockdowns. Despite the gains in manufacturing, total employment in the sector remains below prepandemic levels. The November jobs report released Friday showed 12.53 million workers employed in manufacturing, the lowest since 2013. In February, there were 12.85 million working in factories.
The data come from the Labor Department’s monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, known as JOLTS.
The broader picture showed that openings rose a bit in October but layoffs rose faster, driven higher by a surge in discharges by the federal government as it wound down the 2020 census. Discharges and layoffs by the federal government rose from 23,000 in August to 60,000 in October and 151,000 in November.
The number of job openings in the U.S. climbed to 6.65 million from 6.49 million in September. Hires were more or less unchanged at 5.8 million, although private sector hiring slipped from 5.57 million to 4.93 million.
Layoffs rose from 1.437 million to 1.68 million. That was below the year earlier level of 1.778 million.
Openings and hires were also rose significantly in health care.
Despite strains put on state government budgets by the pandemic, state and local government continue to hire workers. In October, state and local government hired 271,000 workers, up from September’s 257,000 but below the 316,000 hired in the prior October. Job openings slipped 3,000 to 602,000, below the 638,000 openings in October of last year.