Manufacturing job growth continues to slow, with U.S. adding only a fifth as many factory jobs as last year

Workers build washing machines on the assembly line at the Samsung washing machine facility in Newberry, S.C. The United States added 3,000 factory jobs last month as manufacturing hiring continued to slow.

The United States is adding instead of losing manufacturing jobs, but factory hiring continues to slow.

U.S. factories hired 3,000 more workers in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's down from 4,000 in April and down from an average of 15,300 new manufacturing jobs per month last year.

"Manufacturing job growth is clearly slowing," Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said. "Economic expansions don’t last forever, but there are policy interventions that can boost demand and support new factory job creation. Now would be a good time to get a $2 trillion infrastructure plan back on track, and to secure a meaningful trade deal with China to rebalance that relationship."

Dean Baker, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., said that job growth was slowing overall, with just 75,000 new jobs added in May, as compared to a three-month average of 151,000. That trend was particularly pronounced in manufacturing, one of the Region's largest sectors for employment.

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"Manufacturing has been looking especially weak in recent months, as average hours have been dropping," Baker said. "The index of aggregate hours worked in manufacturing is at the same level as it was last August. Wage growth has also been exceptionally weak in manufacturing, with the average hourly wage up just 2.2% over the last year."

The slowdown in hiring does not bode well for wages, he said.

"This report provides serious grounds for concern about a weakening recovery," Baker said. "While there is little reason to believe that the economy is about to fall into a recession, the weaker job growth, coupled with the slowing of wage growth, indicate that the labor market is not nearly as tight as the 3.6% unemployment rate would indicate."

The United States has about 12.8 million manufacturing jobs, down from a peak of 19.5 million in 1979, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The United States has lost nearly 4.5 million manufacturing jobs since the year 2000, largely due to automating and outsourcing.


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.