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Manufacturing Sector Expands in May

Does Jobs Report Signal Economic Slowdown?

Does Jobs Report Signal Economic Slowdown?

June 5, 2017

Last week's jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was underwhelming, to say the least. Manufacturing jobs decreased by 1,000 in May while total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 138,000, which is 66,000 fewer jobs than March and April.

The unemployment rate was little changed at 4.3 percent, with companies struggling to find qualified workers. The report could be an early indicator that the economy, which showed improvement in the first quarter, is about to come to a screeching halt.

Companies might be delaying hiring "amid worries political scandals engulfing President Donald Trump could imperil his economic agenda, including tax cuts and infrastructure spending," according to analysis in a recent Reuters article.

"Political uncertainty in Washington is another factor holding back the job market," Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo, said in the Reuters article. "The probability that any of the Trump stimulus would become reality has decreased significantly in recent weeks."

Despite the weaker numbers, The Conference Board Employment Trends Index increased in May, following an increase in April. The index now stands at 133.70, up from 132.77 (an upward revision) in April. The change represents a 6.4 percent gain in the ETI compared to a year ago.

“While employment numbers have shown some softness in the past three months, there is no slowdown visible in the Employment Trends Index, suggesting solid job growth over the summer,” said Gad Levanon, chief economist, North America, at The Conference Board. “Employment will likely grow fast enough to continue tightening the labor market.”

The latest report continues what has happened in the last two years, with job growth slowing in 2015 and 2016, according to the newly released 2017 Economic Benchmarks for Wholesale Distribution report.

An average of 88,800 jobs were added per month in 2010; 174,300 in 2011; 178,500 in 2012; 191,800 in 2013; and 249,800 in 2014. It slowed to 226,100 in 2015; 186,700 in 2016; and 177,700 through March 2017.

Learn more about the 2017 Economic Benchmarks for Wholesale Distribution at

Join us on Thursday at 1 p.m. ET for the 2017 Mid-Year Economic Update, a free webcast featuring Brian Lewandowski, associate director at the business research division of the University of Colorado Boulder's Leeds School of Business, and MDM Publisher Tom Gale. In the 60-minute program, Brian and Tom will discuss the economic drivers of the last year and the industry's outlook through 2018. Learn more or register now.

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