The Labor Department released its monthly jobs report on Friday, and it was a… good one? Bad one? O.K. one?
Manufacturing gained 4,000 new jobs in February, while 20,000 new jobs were created across the economy. That was well below expectations of around 180,000 new jobs.
Over at the White House, President Trump shrugged off the report, and some economists also said they weren’t all that concerned. After all, wages are on the rise, suggesting things are still strong. Unemployment rates for workers who didn’t graduate high school fell 5.3 percent, a sign that the economy is still doing just fine.
Meanwhile, the weather was pretty brutal across the country in February, which probably slowed hiring down quite a bit.
But not everybody is so confident. After all, 20,000 jobs isn’t great, especially when you consider that factory jobs alone had grown by an average of 22,000 new jobs per month over the past 12 months.
“This is a disappointing report. I don’t think there’s any way to sugarcoat it,” Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist of Northern Trust in Chicago, told the New York Times.
So who has it right?
We just don’t know for sure. But we do know that there are policies that will help grow the economy and keep job growth strong, especially in manufacturing.
Infrastructure seems like a good place to start. While “Infrastructure Week” has become a joke in political circles these days, there is a reason why it is the one thing that can bring business and labor together – it will create jobs and boost the economy. If an infrastructure investment package includes strong Buy America preferences, that’s even better.
Meanwhile, more investment is also needed in federal R&D partnerships like the Manufacturing USA institutes, and we need to train the next generation of workers for high tech jobs.
Then there’s the impending trade deal with China. Manufacturers need a tough, enforceable deal that takes on China’s trade cheating and levels the playing field for American workers and businesses.
As always, we’ll keep a close eye on the manufacturing jobs numbers to see whether the hiring slowdown continues, or if February's numbers are indeed just a blip.