Manufacturing lost 18,000 jobs last month, with non-durable goods industries taking the biggest hit as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) slammed the economy.
Non-durable goods accounted for 11,000 lost jobs while durable goods pared an additional 7,000, according to a breakdown by sector issued today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The job cuts were part of a broader unemployment rise stemming from COVID-19 and business closings that were part of steps implemented to slow the spread of the contagious disease. Total non-farm employment plunged by 701,000 jobs, the bureau said in a statement. Employment in leisure and hospitality dropped by 459,000.
The 701,000 figure is preliminary and “predated many coronavirus-related business and school closings” that happened in the second half of March, the bureau said. The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent from 3.5 percent in February. That was the biggest month-over-month rise in the rate since January 1975.
The March jobs report ended a streak of 113 months of job growth, according to Reuters.
Within durable goods, job losses were paced by fabricated metal products, down 4,400 jobs, and motor vehicles and parts, down 2,200. Computer and electronic products led durable goods job gainers, with 1,800.
The auto industry idled North American plants because of COVID-19 and concern for worker safety. Ford Motor Co. had planned to restart production this month but postponed the move. No new date has been set.
On the non-durable goods side of manufacturing, job losses were led by printing (down 3,500) and chemicals (down 3,000).
Manufacturing totaled 12.839 million jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis in March. That was down from an adjusted 12.857 million in February. It was higher than the 12.827 million in March 2019.
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.