Manufacturing industry added 4,000 jobs in April as factory hiring slows

Visitors look over robotic machinery and the factory floor at Tri-State Automation in Hammond in this file photo. Manufacturing job growth has slowed to a few thousand jobs a month, as compared to more than 23,000 a month last year. Content Exchange

The United States added 263,000 new jobs in April as the unemployment rate dropped to the lowest point in the last 49 years, but the manufacturing sector — one of the central pillars of the Northwest Indiana economy — continued to grow only slightly.

The U.S. manufacturing sector added 4,000 jobs in April, as compared to an average of more than 23,600 jobs per month last year, when it added a total of 284,000, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Some workers in durable goods production even saw a wage decline in April.

Since February, factory hiring has slowed nationwide to only a few thousand new jobs each month.

"Factory jobs are up again, but by little for the third month in a row," said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a joint effort between the United Steelworkers union and leading manufacturing companies. "How can we ensure stronger growth in American manufacturing? Investment in infrastructure with strong Buy America provisions, an idea that holds sturdy bipartisan support. We see our roads and bridges crumbling in front of us every day. Rebuilding America means making jobs up- and down-stream for factory workers, providing opportunities for communities whose livelihoods depend on these good-paying jobs along the way. This benefits all Americans."

Paul also said closing a U.S.-China trade deal would shore up American manufacturing at a time of uncertainty.

"The weakness in manufacturing job growth is also a clear signal that a meaningful trade deal with China must be concluded soon," he said." "Reports are swirling that the administration is watering down its demands on industrial subsidies and intellectual property theft. We hope that isn't the case. Too much is at stake for American workers and businesses."

Ball State University economist Michael Hicks said the April jobs report showed the economy was continuing to expand, though the workforce declined by 490,000 as compared to the previous month. He said employment growth was mostly in professional services, healthcare, social services and construction, and that wages have risen by 3.2% year-over-year, well above the inflation target.

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