Manufacturing Gains Jobs for the Fifth Straight Month — But Don’t Break Out the Champagne

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
May 05 2017 |
A worker installs a seat into a Ford F-150 at a factory in Missouri. | Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Job growth is slowing down, and troubling signs still remain.

The April jobs figures came out today, and there's a pretty good chance we're going to see a triumphant Trump tweet.

Here's why: The economy gained 211,000 new jobs last month, while the unemployment rate dropped to 4.4 percent. It's a strong rebound after a sluggish March, and even many analysts were stunned by the extent of the growth. 

Manufacturing saw 6,000 new jobs in April. It's the fifth straight month that manufacturing has gained jobs, and the sector has added more than 70,000 total during that time period. But today's figures also seem to mirror what the Institute for Supply Management reported earlier this week on factory activity — there's still expansion, but it's happening at a slower pace. And as we noted earlier this week, slowing auto sales also signal potential trouble ahead (although it's worth noting that motor vehicles and parts reported 2,800 new jobs last month). 

We need to kick things into gear if we want to continue to see steady growth, according to Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul (AAM):

"If we're to keep moving forward, we must bring back production through tax reform that promotes exports and domestic manufacturing, invest in infrastructure with strong Buy America preferences, and actively push back against China and its anti-competitive practices. Only meaningful action will restore some of America's lost factory jobs."

Which brings us back to President Trump. While he's issued a slew of executive orders on various trade issues, most of those efforts are still in the planning stages. We won't know until the summer what those plans will actually amount to, and even then, it will likely take time to implement them.

Meanwhile, Congress continues to be focused on issues like health care while working class voters have repeatedly indicated that they want policymakers working on blue-collar job growth. And then there's public relations efforts from companies like Apple and Walmart, who are clearly jumping on the American-made bandwagon but not actually doing much to bring jobs home.

All of this recent attention being paid to manufacturing is nice, of course. But it's time for some real action.