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Manufacturing Worker Numbers Rise to 15-Year High

Manufacturing employment increased in January for the third month in a row, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

What’s going on: The sector added 23,000 jobs last month, bringing the total number of employees in the manufacturing sector in January to 12,979,000, the highest number since November 2008.

  • The gain is in sharp contrast to that of December, when manufacturing added just 8,000 workers.

Wages: Average hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees in manufacturing rose 0.3% to $27.22, with 5.3% growth in the past year.

  • December’s average hourly wages came in at a seasonally adjusted $27.14, up from $26.89 in November.

Where the hires were: The biggest gains in manufacturing employment in January occurred in chemicals (up 6,900), transportation equipment (up 5,600, including 3,100 for motor vehicles and parts), printing and related support activities (up 5,100), food manufacturing (up 3,500), plastics and rubber goods (up 2,200) and miscellaneous nondurable products (up 2,200).

  • In the past 12 months, the strongest hiring gains have occurred in transportation equipment (up 77,000, including 39,900 from motor vehicles and parts), machinery (up 15,800), fabricated metal goods (up 14,600) and food manufacturing (up 11,600).

​​​​​​​Overall: Employment in the larger economy last month jumped by 353,000, more than double economists’ expectations.

  • The unemployment rate stayed at 3.7%, with the number of unemployed Americans decreasing to 6,124,000 from December’s 6,268,000. 
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