Economic weaknesses continue to hamper job creation, with the level of hiring nearly unchanged for the last two years. While the level of separations has leveled off from their highs during the recession, new employment has not picked up. The accompanying graph below illustrates this.

According to new Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the gap between manufacturing hiring and separations narrowed in August. Hirings fell from 259,000 in July to 252,000 in August, and separations rose from 239,000 to 248,000 for the month. Both numbers represent 2.1 percent of the manufacturing workforce. The bottom line is that hires exceed separations by 4,000 workers, suggesting that there is still net hiring for the industry.

For the economy as a whole, employers added 32,000 net new hires. Job openings, however, dipped in August, falling from 3,213,000 in July to 3,056,000 in August. Manufacturing accounted for 12,000 of this decline, with job openings decreasing from 252,000 to 240,000.  The overall rates of job openings as a percentage of total employment fell by 0.1 percentage points for both the larger economy and for the manufacturing sector to 2.3 percent and 2.0 percent, respectively.

Despite the slower job growth for the month, the long-term trend for job openings is positive. The number of manufacturing job openings has grown from from 173,000 in August 2010 to 240,000 in August 2011. From a policy perspective, it will be important for the U.S. to consider pro-growth actions that will get the job engine moving again, especially given that job growth appears to have stalled in recent months.

Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.