The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that job openings in the manufacturing sector recently soared to the highest reading since January 2001. Manufacturers posted 451,000 job openings in April, up from 421,000 in March. Openings were high for durable goods firms, up from 253,000 to 286,000, but were slightly lower for nondurable goods manufacturers, down from 168,000 to 165,000. Monthly job openings in the sector have averaged 427,500 year to date in 2018, up from averages of 341,250 and 389,667 for all of 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Overall, the pace of manufacturing job openings has trended higher, consistent with the tight labor market seen in other data. While the generation of new jobs is nearly always welcome news, the gap between the number of manufacturing workers and available manufacturing jobs—often a result of the fact that there simply are not enough qualified applicants to fill them—is actually a serious problem for manufacturers. Indeed, the inability to attract and retain talent was actually cited as manufacturers’ top concern in the latest NAM survey. Moving forward, this is not expected to change over the coming months.

Net hiring among manufacturers remains encouraging, even with some pullbacks in activity over the past few months. There were 346,000 hires in the sector in April, down from 353,000 in March. Hiring eased a bit for both durable (down from 211,000 to 209,000) and nondurable (down from 142,000 to 137,000) goods manufacturers, but the numbers have still trended in the right direction across the past 12 months or so. Along those lines, manufacturers hired 311,000 workers one year ago. At the same time, total separations—including layoffs, quits and retirements—declined from 342,000 to 333,000. As a result, net hiring (or hires minus separations) edged up from 11,000 in March to 13,000 in April. More importantly, it was the 12th consecutive monthly increase in manufacturing net hiring, averaging 18,833 over that time frame.

Meanwhile, job openings for nonfarm payroll businesses rose to a new all-time high, jumping from 6,633,000 in March to 6,698,000 in April. According to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, there were more job postings in April in the information, mining and logging, leisure and hospitality, professional and business services and trade, transportation and utilities sectors. In addition, net hiring among nonfarm payroll firms increased from 164,000 in March to 170,000 in April.

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