In June U.S. manufacturing regained all the jobs it lost during the deep but short CCP Virus and lockdowns-induced recession of Spring 2020.
By Alan Tonelson
According to last Friday’s employment report from the Labor Department (for June), as was the case with the private sector overall, U.S.-based manufacturing last month finally regained all the jobs it lost – and then some – during the deep but short CCP Virus- and lockdowns-induced recession of spring, 2020.
The new figures show that by adding 29,000 workers on net sequentially during June, and having added slightly more to their headcounts in April than previously reported, domestic industry’s employment last month stood at 12.797 million. That’s 0.09 percent more than the 12.785 million on their payrolls in February, 2020, the last full data month before the pandemic’s arrival in force began decimating and distorting the economy.
As of June, American private sector workers now number 129.765 million – 0.11 percent above its immediate pre-pandemic level of 129.625 million.
Yet the entire non-farm economy (the employment universe of the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks employment trends for the federal government) still hasn’t recovered all the jobs it lost during March and April, 2020. Because public sector employment is still off some, June’s 151.980 million non-farm payroll count remains 2.38 percent below the February, 2020 total of 152.504 million.
The June jobs report left manufacturing employment at the same level of total non-farm employment (8.42 percent) as in May, and a slightly smaller (9.86 percent versus 9.87 percent) share of total pivate sector employment that month.
But since the CCP Virus’ large-scale arrival, domestic industry has boosted these percentages from 8.38 percent and 9.83 percent, respectively.
Another reason for optimism about the manufacturing results of the June jobs report: The 29,000 payrolls boost was a nice increase from May’s unrevised 18,000 increase – the worst monthly performance since April, 2021’s 28,000. And as noted above, this past April’s excellent results saw their second upward revision – from 58,000 to 61,000 (the highest month-to-month gain since last July’s 62,000).
May’s biggest manufacturing jobs winners among the broadest Individual industry categories monitored by the Labor Department were:
>transportation equipment, which has been on a genuine rollercoaster. June’s hiring increase of 7,200 followed a May loss revised down from 7,900 to 9,800 – the worst such monthly drop since February’s 19,900. Yet the April figure for the sector was upgraded from an unrevised 19,500 to 20,100 – and followed a March advance of 25,000. That was the best such performance since October’s 28,200.
Yet all this tumult – due largely to an ongoing semiconductor shortage still plaguing the automotive sector in particular – still left transportation equipment employment 2.23 percent lower than in immediately pre-pandemic-y February, 2020 – as opposed to the 2.57 percent figure calculable last month;
>miscellaneous non-durable goods, where headcounts improved by 5,400 – the biggest monthly increase since February, 2021’s 5,500. But volatility is evident here, too, as May’s previously reported 2,900 jobs decrease was revised downgraded 3,400 – the biggest decline since December, 2020’s -9,400. Yet payrolls in this catch-all sector are now 9.68 percent higher than in February, 2020 – up from the 8.12 percent calculable from last month’s figures;
>plastics and rubber products, whose 5,300 hiring advance was its best since April’s now twice upgraded 8,000 rise. Moreover, May’s initially reported jobs decrease of 400 is now judged to have been a gain of 2,600. These companies now employ 4.33 percent more workers than just before the pandemic’s large-scale arrival in February, 2020, versus the 2.88 percent calculable last month; and
>food manufacturing, which added 4,800 employees on month in June. In addition, May’s initially reported 6,100 increase was revised up to 7,600, more than offsetting a second downgrade of the April advance from 7,700 0 7,100. This huge industry’s workforce is now 2.87 percent greater than in February, 2020, as opposed to the 2.53 percent figure calculable last month.
The biggest jobs losers in June among the broadest manufacturing sectors were:
>printing and related support activities, where 900 jobs were cut in the biggest monthly decrease since January’s 1,800. Worse, May’s initially reported employment retreat of 400 is now estimated at 700, and April’s upgraded increase (of 3,100) was revised down to 3,900. Employment by these companies is now down by 10.63 percent since just before the CCP Virus’ arrival in force in February, 2020, versus the 10.23 percent calculable last month;
>textile product mills, whose sequential June jobs loss of 700 was its worst since last September’s 900. May’s initially reported 100 employment dip stayed unrevised, but April’s initially upgraded results (from a headcount loss of 400 to one of 300) is now judged to be a decline of 400 once again. Consequently, payrolls in this sector are now off by 5.32 percent since February, 2020, as opposed t the 4.60 percent calculable last month; and
>fabricated metal products, whose 600 job loss in June was its worst such retreat since April, 2021’s 1,600, and the first fall-off since then. Revisions were mixed, with May’s initially reported increase of 7,100 downgraded to 6,900 (still its best sequential performance since February’s 9,300 surge) but April’s losses were revised down again, from 1,600 to 1,400. Despite its recent hiring hot streak, however, payrolls in this large sector are still 2.31 percent below pre-pandemic-y February, 2020’s level, versus the 2.24 percent calculable last month.
As known by RealityChek regulars, the big machinery industry is a bellwether for all of domestic manufacturing and indeed the entire U.S. economy, since so many industries use its products. So it was definitely good news that employment in this sector rose on month in June by 1,000 after having dropped by a downwardly adjusted 3,200 in May. That’s the sector’s worst such performance since it shed 7,000 workers last November. (Note: Last month, I mistakenly reported the May, 2021 decrease at 7,900.)
Yet April’s hiring gains were revised down again – from 5,900 to 5,800 – and machinery employment is still off since just before the pandemic’s arrival by 2.05 percent, versus the 2.12 percent calculable last month.
As always, the most detailed employment data for pandemic-related industries are one month behind those in the broader categories, and interestingly, their May performance was generally better than that for domestic industry as a whole.
The semiconductor industry still struggling with the aforementioned shortages boosted employment on month in May by 800, and April’s initially reported 900 increase was revised up to 1,100 – the best since December’s 1,400. Even though March’s jobs improvement remained at a downgraded 400, payrolls in the sector moved up to 2.20 percent higher than just before the pandemic arrived in February, 2020 from the 1.66 percent calculable last month. And although progress seems modest, it must be remembered that even during the early spring, 2020 downturn, these companies added to their headcounts.
In surgical appliances and supplies (which includes all the personal protective equipment and other medical goods so widely used to fight the CCP Virus), employment in May climbed by 400 on month, April’s initially reported 200 loss is now estimated at just 100, and March’s unrevised 1,100 increase stayed unrevised. These results mean that these sectors have increased their workforces by 4.36 percent since February, 2020, versus the 3.88 percent calculable last month.
The large pharmaceuticals and medicines industry was a partial exception to this pattern, losing 100 jobs sequentially in May. But April’s initially reported 1,400 rise (the best monthly performance since last June’s 2,600) is now judged to have been 1,500. And March’s advance stayed at an upwardly revised 1,200. As a result, these industries now employ 10.10 percent more workers than in immediately pre-pandemic-y February, 2020, versus the 9.78 percent calculable last month.
The medicines subsector containing vaccines hired 600 net new employees on month in May, April’s 1,100 payrolls increase (the best such performance since December’s 2,000), stayed unrevised, as was March’s previously upgraded 600 increase. Consequently, these companies’ headcounts are now 25.08 percent above their February, 2020 levels, versus the 24.47 percent improvement calculable last month.
Good job creation also continued throughout an aerospace cluster hit especially hard by CCP Virus-related travel restrictions. Aircraft manufacturers added 1,300 workers in May, their most robust monthly hiring since last June’s 4,000 jump. April’s initially reported climb of 200 was upgraded to 500, and March’s results stayed at an upwardly revised 1,200. These companies’ workforces have now crept to within 10.30 percent of their pre-pandemic total, versus the 10.96 percent shortfall calculable last month.\
In aircraft engines and engine parts, jobs rose by 700 sequentially in May, and though April’s initially reported increase of 900 is now judged to be 800, it was still the best such performance since February’s increase of 900. March’s new hires stayed at an upwardly revised 600, leaving employment in this sector 10.91 percent below February, 2020 levels, versus the 11.56 percent calculable last month.\
Non-engine aircraft parts and equipment makers kept making steady employment progress as well. They added 300 workers on month in May, and their initially reported new April hiring of 300 is now estimated at 400. March’s employment increase stayed unrevised at 700, but this sector still employs 15.14 percent fewer workers than in February, 2020, versus the 15.48 percent calculable last month.
With the Federal Reserve still on record as seeing the need for slowing the economy’s growth (at best) in order to fight inflation, signs of recession multiplying (e.g., here), domestic industry’s major export markets looking increasingly weak as well, the Ukraine War dragging on, and supply chain problems ongoing (see, e.g., here and here) it’s difficult to expect U.S.-based manufacturers to escape these powerful downdrafts. But these companies have kept turning in remarkably strong results in production as well as hiring, so who’s to say they can’t keep bucking the odds?
Alan Tonelson, a columnist for IndustryToday, is founder of the RealityChek blog (alantonelson.wordpress.com), which covers manufacturing, trade, the economy, and national security. He has written for many leading publications on these subjects and is the author of The Race to the Bottom (Westview Press, 2000).
Copyright, RealityChek, 2022