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Metals industry jobs up, but pace slows

Keywords: Tags  metals industry employment, unemployment rate, manufacturing, transportation, motor vehicles, machinery, mining

CHICAGO — Primary metal producers and fabricators both registered employment gains in March compared with the previous month, but results were mixed in a year-on-year comparison.

Producers employed 397,500 people during the month (not seasonally adjusted), adding 2,600 jobs vs. February by shedding 2,400 positions compared with March 2012. Meanwhile, fabricated metal product companies—employing nearly 1.43 million workers in March—added 6,200 jobs month on month and 33,900 positions year on year, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report that pegged the unemployment rate at 7.6 percent in March vs. 7.7 percent in February.

One of the bright spots was machinery manufacturing, which added 5,600 jobs in March vs. February. The mining sector outside of oil and gas added 2,500 jobs, and manufacturers of motor vehicles and parts added 4,500 jobs in the same comparison.

The transportation and logistics sector was more muted in March. Waterborne transportation service providers added 800 jobs, the trucking sector added 300 jobs and rail business added 100 jobs compared with February.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by 88,000 in March, seasonally adjusted.

"This is a disappointing report, much worse than expected, which will dash hopes that the economy had reached a sustained 200,000-plus monthly job creation rate," according to Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight Inc., Lexington, Mass.

"There were disappointments almost across the board, especially in manufacturing. It is hard to blame the sequester for (that)," he said.

The results "will fan fears that we will once again see a slowdown in job creation after a strong start to the year, as in 2011 and 2012. The three-month moving average of job creation has now dropped to just 168,000—it had previously been running above 200,000," Gault said. "With the impact of the sequester yet to be felt, hopes that the economy could sustain a 200,000-plus monthly job creation rate will have to be deferred until 2014."

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