People focused on the industry's future stress the need for more competitive environments. "There's a worsening skills gap as some of the most experienced people retire each year," says Jacey Wilkins of the Manufacturing Institute. "Manufacturers need access to qualified talent."
Manufacturing's net new jobs were mostly in non-durables, though in the durables area there were 4,000 new wood-based jobs and there were 6,400 new metal fabricating jobs. The primary machinery area saw the largest drop of 2,000 jobs during February.
Although it was a good week for economic data, these numbers come amid partisan turmoil in Washington that could still detract from the optimism. "Recent data show some improvements in manufacturing production and sales, but also indicate that businesses remain frustrated by the U.S. fiscal situation," said Chad Moutray, chief economist with the National Association of Manufacturers. Citing the most recent Beige Book survey, Moutray points out that some manufacturers restrained hiring due to resistance to government regulations and the Affordable Care Act.
Addressing both the positive and the negative figures in the jobs data, Moutray added, "It's important to note some of the gains in manufacturing employment were offset by losses in several sectors. We need to see growth across all sectors of manufacturing if we are going to turn the corner and create 20,000 jobs each month."