The national labor market has been encouraging this year, with signs the job market continues to tighten. Manufacturing hiring remained robust in August, as the sector hired 352,000 workers, edging down from 353,000 in July. The pace of hiring in both months was the best since November 2007. At the same time, total separations, including layoffs, quits and retirements, fell from 320,000 to 304,000, a six-month low. As a result, net hiring (or hires minus separations) jumped from 33,000 in July to 48,000 in August. Meanwhile, manufacturing job openings pulled back again from June’s 16-year high but largely trending higher over the past 12 months.
In the latest Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey from the National Association of Manufacturers, the historically high levels of optimism that U.S. manufacturers expressed during the first two quarters of 2017 continued unabated through the third quarter. In March, 93.3 percent of respondents were positive about their own company’s outlook, an all-time high in the survey’s 20-year history. That dropped slightly in the second quarter to 89.5 percent, then rose a bit again in the third quarter to 89.8 percent. As a result, this year we have seen the highest consecutive three-quarter average — 90.9 percent having a positive outlook for their company — in the survey’s history.
PROFITS UP, SALES RECOVERING
U.S. manufacturing corporations’ seasonally adjusted after-tax profits in the second quarter of 2017 totaled $150.0 billion, up $0.5 (±0.3) billion from the after-tax profits of $149.5 billion recorded in the first quarter of 2017, and up $19.0 (±1.2) billion from the after-tax profits of $131.0 billion recorded in the second quarter of 2016. Seasonally adjusted sales for the quarter totaled $1,618.6 billion, down $9.3 (±5.3) billion from the $1,627.9 billion recorded in the first quarter of 2017, but up $58.4
(±16.5) billion from the $1,560.2 billion recorded in the second quarter of 2016.