Jan. 6, 2023

Manufacturing added a net 8,000 jobs last month, but with serious discrepancies between hiring in durable and nondurable goods industries.

Ryan Secard

A pair of reports released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this week shows that manufacturing employment remains stable despite significant churn and persistently high job openings. The latest of the two reports, the Department of Labor’s Employment Situation report for December 2022, shows that manufacturing companies hired a net estimated 8,000 jobs, matching November’s slow growth but falling short of the 32,000 average new hires per month for 2022. Almost all the new hires in December, though, were in durable goods manufacturing, offsetting significant losses in nondurable goods production.

At the same time, demand for manufacturing workers grew as the Bureau’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover report for November, released Wednesday, showed the number of openings at manufacturing firms last month grew by 57,000 postings to 779,000 open positions, somewhat lower than the yearly average of 837,000 but still elevated compared to pre-Covid years.

New manufacturing hires in December were almost entirely concentrated in durable goods production, offsetting widespread losses across almost every category of the nondurables industry. Gains of 24,000 jobs in durable goods offset a loss of 16,000 across the nondurable goods production segments.

Workforce growth in durable goods was further concentrated mostly in transportation equipment manufacturing, which saw an increase of about 15,000 new hires, roughly half of which were hired by motor vehicles and parts companies.

Other durable-goods manufacturers saw more modest gains across the board: The second-largest hirer in durable goods last month was the nonmetallic mineral products industry, which hired an estimated 4,500 people in November, but only the furniture, miscellaneous durable goods, and subsections of the electronics sectors let more people go than they brought on.

By contrast, the only nondurable goods manufacturing sector with a net increase of employees in November was its largest segment, food manufacturing, which brought on about 3,300 more hires. Every other Department of Labor-recognized category in nondurable goods lost employees.

The chemicals industry lost the most, with 5,700 fewer employees than in October, but based on the preliminary figures, each nondurable goods production segment lost at least 800 employees on net.

The dramatic drop in nondurable goods employment showed in the Bureau’s data on average weekly hours. The average amount of hours and overtime worked by manufacturing employees has trended downward in the past months, dropping from 40.4 in December 2021 to 40.1 as of last month.  On a year-over-year basis, average hours worked in durable goods production remained stable, as both December 2021 and 2022 recorded an average of 40.6 hours per week. In nondurable goods, the year-over-year average hours worked dropped from 40.0 hours in 2021 to 39.4 as of last month.