July Job Numbers: Modest Gains for Manufacturing, Transportation, and Logistics
An optimist will look at the July employment numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and proudly proclaim that the job market is much stronger today than it was last month.
The pessimist will maintain that the United States remains mired in the longest jobs slump since the Great Recession.
And they will both be right.
The numbers are encouraging – 255,000 new jobs added, much better than the 185,000 projected, and an unemployment rate holding steady below five percent. However, total U.S. employment remains down on net, as it has been since January of 2015.
While manufacturing’s share of total U.S. employment fell to a record low (8.52 percent), July brought some positive signs with the addition of 9,000 jobs, after 15,000 jobs were added in June.
Manufacturing wages also enjoyed a fourth straight increased to its fourth straight current-dollar increase of more than three percent, the best run since 2009. And according to the manufacturing PMI, nine of 18 industries showed improvement in production, and 12 showed improvement in factory activity.
Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, released a statement of cautious optimism: “Two months of very modest growth in manufacturing jobs is certainly better than negative territory, where we’ve been much of the past year.”
“Now,” he added, “imagine the possibilities for factory jobs if we had better conditions, such as we would have with a robust infrastructure investment.”
Manufacturing job growth remains a prominent campaign issue for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, though some industry leaders contend that their rhetoric conflicts with their positions on international free trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“It’s time to stop undermining the ability of manufacturers in the United States to compete and win through trade and embrace policies like TPP that are going to put our nation back in the driver’s seat and ensure success for our economy,” said Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. “To grow jobs in America, manufacturers need their products sold to more markets. Isolationist rhetoric will not help grow manufacturing jobs in the United States, but the right policies” — including market-opening free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership — will.”
Logistics and Transportation
When manufacturing is up, transportation typically follows; someone has to deliver all those American-made products. The overall logistics and transportation sector added 11,700 jobs for the month, led by an additional 4,400 jobs in passenger transportation.
Trucking companies added 1,700 jobs in July, an encouraging sign for an industry that had struggled due to flat consumer spending and high inventory levels. Compared to July of 2015, however, trucking is still down 5,600 jobs. Rail transportation continues to suffer in a disastrous year in which more than 27,000 jobs have been cut. Just 300 jobs were lost in July, which almost seems like a win.
The employment picture is even brighter for logistics industries, particularly those that support ecommerce. With the 2,600 warehousing and storage company jobs added in July, these sectors are now up more than 48,000 jobs over 2015. Courier and messenger firms now employ 18,600 more workers than last year, which includes the 1,800 more hires added in July.
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