Factories added 196,000 jobs in 2017

A worker welds a truck cab frame on the Volvo truck assembly line at the Volvo plant in Dublin, Va. The United States added 196,000 manufacturing jobs last year.

The manufacturing sector, one of Northwest Indiana's largest employers since the first steel mills were erected on the shores of Lake Michigan at the dawn of the 20th century, added jobs last year. 

Manufacturing has shed millions of jobs in the United States since the 1990s, largely because of outsourcing and increased automation, but jobs have been rebounding since the Great Recession. 

But the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the United States added 196,000 factory jobs in 2017, including 25,000 jobs in December.

"We're very pleased to see good manufacturing job growth in December to close out 2017, making it the third best year for new factory jobs since the Great Recession," said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. "It's worth noting that factory jobs are growing at a faster rate than jobs in the overall economy. Automation and robotics clearly have less of a dampening effect on manufacturing jobs than many have predicted."

Overall, the United States added 2 million jobs in 2017, the lowest amount of new jobs created since 2010. 

“The key question is how to keep this factory job momentum in 2018," Paul said. "It starts with the administration acting decisively on long-deferred promises to crack down on unfairly traded imports from China and other countries, and continues with a much-needed boost in infrastructure spending.”

The addition of 25,000 factory jobs in December suggested the fourth quarter of 2017 set a new record for manufacturing production, said Michael Hicks, director of the Ball State University Center for Business and Economic Research. 

But overall hiring may slow, given how low unemployment is.

“Yes, the year ended on a strong jobs report, but with 148,000 new jobs total employment growth was not as robust as in recent months,” Hicks said. “This is not surprising given that the labor force rose by only 60,000 workers. At the current level of unemployment, job growth is likely to continue to be constrained by the supply of available workers."

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.