Manufacturing Leads Improved Employment Figures in December
The employment picture continued to brighten with the release of December’s numbers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, according to Chad Moutray, chief economist with the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Manufacturers. The unemployment rate fell from a revised 8.7 percent in November to 8.5 percent in December.
During the month, nonfarm payrolls increased by a better-than-expected 200,000. Manufacturing employment jumped by 23,000 net workers.
In 2011, the U.S. economy added 1.64 million new jobs, surpassing the 940,000 net new workers created in 2010. Manufacturers added 109,000 new employees in 2010 and 225,000 in 2011. The manufacturing sector has added 334,000 new jobs since December 2009.
“This employment report is definitely good news and an extremely pleasant way to bring in 2012. The domestic economy—particularly among manufacturers—is starting to rebound after several weak months in mid-2011,” Moutray says. “More importantly, recent data suggest that manufacturers are upbeat about production and employment moving forward, a positive sign for the coming months.”
Unemployment remains highly elevated, with the 8.5 percent rate still a major challenge to growth. The “real” unemployment rate, which includes discouraged and underemployed workers, is now 15.2 percent. However, this is an improvement from the 16.6 percent rate observed in December 2010, Moutray noted.
“Significant weaknesses persist in the marketplace,” he added. “The unemployment rate is still stubbornly high, the housing market is improving but still depressed, economic anxieties about Europe still resonate, as well as the uncertainty being created in Washington. These concerns suggest that businesses remain cautiously optimistic about 2012, mindful of the headwinds that still persist around them.”