Two months ago, the U.S. economy failed to produce more jobs for the first time since 1996. The latest employment numbers, which included a slowdown in the manufacturing sector, would appear to indicate that the drop was not just a blip on the screen. In tune with the latest job losses, the unemployment rate rose to 4.1%.
According to the Labor Department's August 2000 Employment Report, there were two primary culprits in the 105,000 decline in nonfarm payroll employment: the continuing decline in the number of temporary census workers and widespread job losses in manufacturing. On average, economists were expecting a gain of 7,000 jobs. Private-sector employment could only muster a 17,000 gain. Some highlights from the report are listed below:
- Construction employment remained unchanged, dropping its monthly average for the year to 15,000 (compared to 25,000 a month in 1999).
- Buoyed by 28,000 new jobs in engineering and management, employment in the services industry jumped 160,000, following an increase of only 11,000 in July.
- Transportation employment continued its strong growth.
After being the lone shining star in July's employment report, the manufacturing industry took a U-turn in August and dropped 79,000 jobs. Employment in electronic components was one of the few areas that continued to grow (4,000). Some of the "declining" highlights are listed below:
- Monthly job losses for the year are averaging 2,000, compared to an average of 18,000 per month in 1999.
- Industries sensitive to construction trends declined: lumber (5,000); furniture (8,000); stone, clay, and glass products (4,000).
- Motor vehicles employment fell by 13,000.
- Rubbers and plastics dropped 8,000 jobs.
- Apparel's long-term decline continued with another 10,000 jobs lost.
At a Glance: Hours and Earnings
- The manufacturing workweek fell 0.4 hour to 41.3 hours, while overtime declined 0.1 hour to 4.5 hours.
- Average hourly earnings rose 4 cents to $13.80, following a 6-cent gain in July.
- Average weekly earnings remained at $473.34.
- Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings and weekly earnings have increased by 3.8% and 3.2%, respectively.
The report on September employment report will be released on October 6, 2000.