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Manufacturing Loses 6,000 Jobs in March, Paced by Motor Vehicles

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

U.S. manufacturing lost 6,000 jobs in March, led by job cuts in the motorized vehicles and parts sector.

The motorized vehicle category lost 6,300 jobs last month, according to a breakdown by industry sector issued today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That caused the overall transportation category to decline by 4,500 jobs.

U.S. deliveries of cars and light trucks are softening after four consecutive years with sales of 17 million vehicles or more. Sales of cars have been plunging as consumers move to crossovers and SUVs. That market trend claimed one victim when General Motors Co. idled its Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant last month.

The factory is not officially closed but production of the Cruze sedan ended and no new product is scheduled for the plant. The ultimate fate of the Lordstown plant will be decided in negotiations between GM and the United Auto Workers later this year. GM has said a total of five plants in the U.S. and Canada don’t have new products allocated for them.

President Donald Trump attacked GM for the Ohio shutdown.

“G.M. let our Country down,” Trump wrote in a March 17 post on Twitter. “I want action on Lordstown fast. Stop complaining and get the job done!”

Overall, durable goods lost 7,000 jobs while non-durable goods added 1,000, according to today’s report. Other sectors cutting jobs included wood products (down 3,000 jobs) and non-metallic mineral products (down 2,400). Job gainers included miscellaneous manufacturing (up 900) and machinery (up 600).

Manufacturing totaled 12.821 million on a seasonally adjusted basis last month, down from an adjusted 12.827 million in February. The March figure is still higher than the year-earlier 12.612 million.

Employment Rebound

Total non-farm employment increased by 196,000 jobs last month, the bureau said in a statement. That was a rebound from a weak performance in February. That month’s job gain was revised in today’s report to 33,000 from an initially reported 20,000. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected a March jobs gain of 180,000. The U.S. unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.8 percent.

Manufacturing jobs peaked in June 1979 (19.6 million on a seasonally adjusted basis, 19.7 million unadjusted). That sank to a low of 11.45 million adjusted and 11.34 million unadjusted in February 2010 following a severe recession caused by the 2008 financial crisis.

Since that low, new manufacturing jobs have been created requiring increased skills because of increased automation and technology in factories.

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