After increasing for 12 consecutive months, manufacturing employment fell by 3,000 in August. The decline was all in manufacturing of durables, which lost 4,000 jobs. Employment in non-durable manufacturing rose by 1,000. The auto industry was the biggest loser, giving up 4,900 jobs after losing 3,500 jobs in July. The weakness also shows up in the index of hours, which dropped 0.3 percent for durable manufacturing in August.
Wages in manufacturing also continue to lag overall wages in the economy. The average hourly wage in manufacturing has increased just 1.8 percent over the last year compared to a 2.9 percent rise overall. While it is far too early to determine if the Trump administration's trade policy is responsible for this weakness, it seems clear that it is not showing obvious benefits at this point.