CHICAGO U.S. metal producers and fabricators both saw employment decline slightly in December compared with the previous month.
Production plants reduced their head count by 600 during the month, which followed a loss of 1,900 jobs in November, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report. Fabrication shops reduced their work force by 2,300 in December after hiring 100 workers in November.
The manufacturing sector as a whole hired 15,000 people last month (not seasonally adjusted) after reducing the head count by 35,000 in November.
The coal and mining industries outside of energy extraction employed 288,000 workers in December, a loss of 5,700 jobs from November, when employment dropped by 4,800 jobs.
Compared with December 2011, however, metal producers added 3,300 jobs last month and metal fabricators boosted employment by 41,300, while U.S. manufacturers combined have hired 167,000 people over the past year.
"If (this) pace of manufacturing job growth (persists) in President Obamas second term, well be on track to add 1.2 million manufacturing jobseasily surpassing his goal of 1 million new manufacturing jobs," Alliance for American Manufacturing executive director Scott Paul said.
However, "December was an outlier" during the final three months of 2012, "when manufacturing employment was essentially stagnant," he said, urging the new Congress to take up a jobs agenda; invest in infrastructure, innovation and skills; and crack down on Chinas "unfair trade practices."
Paul also pointed to tax reform that rewards companies moving jobs back to America or growing new ones as a desirable goal for legislators.
Decembers payroll survey contained no surprises, according to Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at Lexington, Mass.-based consultancy IHS Global Insight Inc. The increase in employment was roughly in line with the monthly average all year, which was the same as the 2011 average.
"Employment growth held up well in the fourth quarter despite all the fears over the fiscal cliff," Gault said. But because the country now faces a debt ceiling crisis and expiration of the payroll tax cut, "it is hard to see employment growth accelerating early in 2013."