March 22, 2023

Economix Blog: Manufacturing Still Looks O.K.



Notions on high and low finance.

Manufacturing jobs fell in May for the third-consecutive month, the Labor Department reports. But the numbers are small — 8,000 in May and a total of 21,000 for the three months.

Such small changes — there are nearly 12 million manufacturing jobs in the economy — are well within the margin of error of the survey. The growth in manufacturing since the bottom of the cycle may be stalling, but it has not reversed.

On an annual basis, the Labor Department says that there are 41,000 more manufacturing jobs than there were a year ago. May is the 32nd consecutive month in which manufacturing employment was up on a year-over-year basis. The last time there was a streak that long, Jimmy Carter was the president, and it lasted for 46 months, through November 1979.

Another cautiously positive sign on employment is that the Institute for Supply Management survey of manufacturers continues to indicate that more companies are increasing employment than are reducing it. The May I.S.M. numbers provided a jolt last week because the overall index came in at 49, indicating that a plurality of companies said business dipped in May. But that same survey showed employment rising — as it has done for 44 consecutive months, ever since October 2009. The Labor Department figures hit bottom a few months later.

The I.S.M. survey, which goes back to 1948, has never shown employment expanding for so many consecutive months. The longest string before now was 36 months, ending in December 1966.

The economy has added 507,000 manufacturing jobs since February 2010. Why don’t we feel better? That gain has been more than offset by the performance of the weakest sector in the economy — government. Over the same period, state and local governments have cut employment by 499,000, and the federal government has shed another 123,000.

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Economix Blog: Makers vs. Takers: An Update



Dollars to doughnuts.

The last election cycle brought a lot of talk about “makers versus takers” in America: a dichotomy featuring entrepreneurial, taxpaying, self-reliant Americans who work hard and keep the economy going, as opposed to those who mooch off the government.

As I reported in an article in Thursday’s paper, though, a new survey suggests that even those who might have the greatest cravings for government cheese still subscribe to more of a bootstrap mentality.

The survey was conducted in January by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

Asked about who should be “mainly responsible” for helping people who are laid off from work, just a quarter of people said the government. Another 42 percent said workers themselves, and 32 percent named employers. (And as you can see in the chart below, Americans are less likely to say that the government is mainly responsible for the displaced today than they were when asked in August 2010.)

Survey was conducted among 1,090 American workers Jan. 9-16, 2013. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Rutgers University Survey was conducted among 1,090 American workers Jan. 9-16, 2013. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

In January, unemployed workers were more likely than the employed to say that the government was mainly responsible for helping the laid off — 38 percent versus 27 percent — but that still leaves only a minority of the unemployed saying they are chiefly the government’s responsibility.

That said, when it comes to supporting specific government policies that would help the unemployed, a majority of all respondents supported almost every idea the researchers asked about.

The one exception was on longer and higher unemployment benefits: Just shy of half of Americans support this. But the unemployed — those who would presumably benefit from such a policy — supported this idea by a wide margin, with 6 in 10 saying that benefits should be more generous.

Survey was conducted among 1,090 American workers Jan. 9-16, 2013. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Source: Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Rutgers University. Survey was conducted among 1,090 American workers Jan. 9-16, 2013. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Source: Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Rutgers University.

In the chart above, the blue bars show support for various proposals. Unemployed workers were also more likely than the employed to support having the government create jobs for unemployed workers. Employed workers liked this idea a lot, too, though.

The two groups were equally likely to support providing long-term education and training programs that help people change careers.

On two proposals, the employed were more supportive than the unemployed: requiring people to enter training programs in order to receive unemployment insurance, and giving tax credits to businesses that hire workers. Again, a majority of both groups favored these ideas.

One caveat to keep in mind when thinking about these maker-versus-taker issues is that a lot of Americans don’t realize they’re relying on the social safety net when they actually are.

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U.S. Labor Report on Jobs to Arrive Friday on Schedule

The hurricane had shut down government offices on Monday and Tuesday, and threatened to delay the release of the monthly jobs numbers. That led to hand-wringing in the presidential campaigns and even some accusations that the Obama administration might delay the numbers for its political benefit.

But a Labor Department spokesman said Wednesday in an e-mail message that the report would come out as planned, at 8:30 a.m. E.S.T. on Friday.

Economists expect the jobs figures to show slow, steady employment growth, the product of an anemic but persistent recovery, with the unemployment rate remaining about where it is in the coming months, and employers expected to add workers too slowly to pull the overall jobless rate down further.

Last month, the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent, the lowest since President Obama took office. Regardless of the results, the numbers will immediately become headline fodder for an Obama campaign looking to trumpet a 25th consecutive month of job growth and a Romney campaign looking to underscore the historical weakness of the recovery and the failure of Mr. Obama’s economic policies.

Economists estimate that the report will show that the economy added around 100,000 jobs in October, though there is a large margin of error in any given report. The economy has created about 146,000 jobs a month over the last three months.

Recent economic data has been mixed, with manufacturing and exports showing significant weakness but consumer spending and confidence on the rise.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 31, 2012

An earlier version of this article misstated the average number of jobs created in recent months. It is 146,000, not 90,000.

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