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Manufacturing unemployment is at a record low

The unemployment rate in the U.S. is currently at 4.1%, its lowest level since December 2000.

But if you’re in the manufacturing industry, you’ve never seen an unemployment rate lower. In November, the unemployment rate in the manufacturing industry fell to 2.6%, the lowest on record for the series, which dates back to January 2000.

Jed Kolko, an economist at job site Indeed, notes that in 2017 manufacturing employment has grown 1.5% from last year, right around the same pace at overall economic growth. In 2016, manufacturing employment declined.

Since 2000, however, overall employment in manufacturing has declined about 25%, falling from around 17 million at the beginning of the century to around 13 million today. Workers leaving the industry or the workforce altogether, and therefore no longer counting as unemployed manufacturing workers, has no doubt contributed to some of this decline.

This new low for manufacturing unemployment, however, comes during a year in which President Donald Trump has repeatedly harped on his desire to kickstart the sector.

And amid a year that has seen the stock market soar to record highs and the economy enjoy some of its strongest overall growth in years, the administration will no doubt see this data point as affirmation of their economic initiatives boosting the manufacturing industry.

Economists at UBS noted that most of the overall gains in manufacturing employment came in the fabricated metals and machinery industries, which are benefitting from an energy-led boost in overall capital investment from businesses. After declining alongside the 2015 plunge in oil prices, business investment has surged over the last couple of quarters.

But Friday’s report largely indicates that in contrast to the last economic expansion, the U.S. manufacturing base is growing, or as Joe Quinlan, chief market strategist at U.S. Trust, wrote in a note this week, “the death of American manufacturing has been greatly exaggerated.”

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