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Metals employment rises, but some still wary

Keywords: Tags  metals industry employment, Douglas Handler, IHG Global Insight, manufacturing, motor vehicles, unemployment rate, Bureau of Labor Statistics, mining sector

CHICAGO — Metals industry employment rose in November, but some steel industry sources said they remain reluctant to hire now and in the future.

One steel service center operator said his orders are thin and he has production workers performing maintenance, and he doesn’t believe it’s just a seasonal effect.

Other industry participants cited uncertainty about the health-care law and its impact on labor costs, while still others said they expect another hit to business confidence when Congress reconvenes in January to deal with budget, deficit and debt ceiling issues.

Primary metal producers hired 900 people during November, a 0.2-percent increase over October but 1.4 percent below the industry’s employment base in November 2012, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

The metal fabricating industry hired 800 people last month, bringing the head count to more than 1.45 million, non-seasonally adjusted data show.

Companies producing motor vehicles and parts hired 7,600 workers in November, and employment is up 5.4 percent from a year earlier to about 826,900 jobs.

The unemployment rate declined to 7 percent in November from 7.3 percent in October, and total nonfarm payroll employment (seasonally adjusted) rose by 203,000.

Some of the positive data might be due to federal government employees who were furloughed in October returning to work in November.

"Longer-term labor force growth trends continue to be negative," Douglas Handler, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight Inc., Lexington, Mass., cautioned.

Some steel industry sources said they don’t trust the reliability of the headline jobless rate, saying it doesn’t reflect the long-term unemployed who have given up looking for work.

Indeed, the total population not in the work force has increased by 2.3 million in the past 12 months, Labor Statistics data show.

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