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Manufacturing Loses Jobs in April on Auto Layoffs

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

Manufacturing lost 18,000 jobs last month as temporary layoffs in the auto industry related to a computer chip shortage took hold, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.

The number of jobs for motor vehicles and parts plunged by 27,000, the bureau said today in a breakdown by industry. Wood products also incurred a loss of 7,200 jobs.

The shortage in semiconductors has spurred automakers to cut back output and impose temporary shutdowns. Ford Motor Co. said last week that production for the current quarter may decline by half because of the lack of computer chips. President Joseph Biden had a virtual meeting last month with executives in the auto, technology, and consumer electronics industries to discuss the shortage.

Manufacturing employment had surged the past two months, increasing by 54,000 in March and 35,000 in February.

The auto industry had recovered quicker than other sectors from the COVID-19 pandemic. Plants closed in March 2020 because of the coronavirus and reopened two months later with new safety procedures in place. The semiconductor situation has complicated automotive operations this year.

Some industries still reported job gains, including miscellaneous manufacturing, up 12,600, and machinery, up 3,700.

Manufacturing employment totaled 12.284 million in April on a seasonally adjusted basis. That compares with an adjusted 12.302 million in March and 11.414 million in April 2020, a month reflecting COVID-19’s impact on industry.

Employment in the sector still is 515,000 jobs below February 2020 levels, the month before COVID-19 began to slam the U.S. economy, the bureau said in a statement.

Total non-farm employment rose by 266,000 jobs last month. That was below a forecast of 978,000 by economists surveyed by Reuters. The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 6.1 percent from 6 percent.

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