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Manufacturing Adds 3,000 Jobs in May, Paced by Transportation

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

Manufacturing added 3,000 jobs in May, with transportation equipment leading the way.

Durable goods industries posted a gain of 4,000 jobs while non-durable goods lost 1,000 jobs last month, according to a breakdown by industry released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Within durable goods, transportation equipment had an increase of 4,000 jobs. That included a gain of 2,800 jobs in motor vehicles and parts.

U.S. light-vehicle sales have slowed in 2019 following four consecutive years of 17 million or more. The industry is adjusting to plunging demand for sedans while demand remains high for deliveries of pickup trucks, sport-utility vehicles and crossovers.

Other sectors posting job gains included machinery, up 1,400 jobs and miscellaneous manufacturing, up 1,800.

Industries with job losses included wood products, down 1,800, and fabricated metal products, down 800.

Manufacturing totalled 12.839 million jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis in May, up from an adjusted 12,836 million in April. The May figure also was better than the 12.655 million in May 2018.

Overall, the economy added 75,000 non-farm jobs last month, the bureau said in a statement. A Reuters survey of economists had projected a gain of 185,000 jobs. The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 3.6 percent, near a 50-year low.

Uncertainty Ahead

Manufacturing faces uncertainty in the coming months. The U.S. and China failed to resolve disputes that led to a trade war. That conflict may now escalate. The Trump administration also had said it would implement a 5 percent tariff on all goods imported from Mexico starting June 10. Increases would then occur in 5 percent implements until reaching 25 percent in October.

However, President Donald Trump said Friday night via Twitter the tariffs were “indefinitely suspended” after Mexico agreed to provide more assistance in stemming the flow of migrants coming to the U.S. The Mexican tariffs would have hit the auto industry particularly hard. Automakers and parts suppliers have established supply chains where components criss-cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Undoing those supply lines would be neither quick nor inexpensive.

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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