The U.S. manufacturing sector is not in a good place.
The latest poor results came from the government’s jobs report on Friday. The Labor Department reported that manufacturers lost 2,000 jobs in September, well below the 18,000 positions it added this time last year and even below the 2,000 gain it saw in August.
Machinery and transportation manufacturing, which includes the production of cars, trains and ships, have seen some of the worst deceleration over the last year. Machinery’s net job gains over the last 12 months slowed to just 6,000 by September, while transportation trickled to a 23-month low of 23,000 last month.
The fabricated metals subindustry, which transforms metal into intermediate or end products, lost 3,000 jobs last month.
While the manufacturing sector as a whole has seen marked hiring since President Donald Trump’s oath of office, the jobs gains have largely plateaued.
Eric Winograd, senior economist at AllianceBernstein, said in a note Friday that the president’s trade war strategies appeared to be in part responsible for the slowdown.
“A big part of the story for the economy as a whole, of course, is the trade war. We can see that in the payrolls figures too,” Winograd wrote. “Manufacturing has been the hardest hit industry by trade policy and, not coincidentally, manufacturing employment has suffered.”
But it was more than job losses in the manufacturing sector that turned heads this week.
A gauge of U.S. manufacturing showed the lowest reading in more than 10 years for September as exports dived amid the escalated trade war. The U.S. manufacturing purchasing managers’ index from the Institute for Supply Management came in at 47.8% for September, the lowest since June 2009, marking the second consecutive month of contraction.
Any figure below 50% signals a contraction.