Is US Manufacturing Growing?

The big question about the economy used to be: When will GDP grow? Now that third quarter GDP is positive, the next question is: When will employment grow? Many analysts think it won't be until the second quarter of next year, after it crosses the 10 percent barrier, but here is some rare good news for the job economy. The US manufacturing sector is expanding -- and it's expanding faster than almost every country in Europe.

The Institute for Supply Management's October survey of manufacturers produced a figure of 53.1 percent (any reading above 50 indicates job growth). That places the US ahead of Europe and Korea and behind only China and Taiwan.

Does this signal an early recovery for jobs? I would caution against much optimism. Even the chair of the ISM, who predicted that his report could presage 4.5% growth in the fourth quarter (Ed: that will not happen.), also said that the pace of hiring would likely be sluggish. It's pretty clear to me that we're going to see another jobless recovery at least on par with the recoveries of the early '00s and '90s because of the unprecedented amount of slack in the job sector. Part-time work is at an all-time high, work-week hours are at an all-time low and we're still about four months away from initial jobless claims reaching a level that would allow unemployment to hit a ceiling.