(Bloomberg) -- Working from home doesn’t work on assembly lines or in plants.

The number of positions waiting to be filled at U.S. manufacturers of non-durable goods such as food, paper products, cleaning supplies and clothing rose by 14,000 to 250,000 in November, figures from the Labor Department showed Tuesday. The rate of openings, or number of available jobs as a share of total employment in the industry plus the vacancies, hit 5.1%, the fifth straight record in data back to 2000.

The rise in vacant positions during the current economic downturn stands in stark contrast to the sharp decline in openings during the 2007-09 recession. Then, the figures reflected a broad business-cycle demand contraction as opposed to the self-inflicted and temporary freeze behind the pandemic-induced slump.

Indeed, a measure of U.S. manufacturing activity expanded in December at the fastest pace in over two years, figures from the Institute for Supply Management showed last week. Survey respondents expressed difficulty finding and retaining labor, with one producer in the food, beverage and tobacco products sector noting “Covid-19 is affecting us more strongly now than back in March.”

Only about two-thirds of nondurable manufacturing jobs lost at the outset of the health crisis have been recovered so far, Labor Department data show, suggesting managers may be having a difficult time finding qualified workers amid continued virus outbreaks and an industry-wide skills shortage that predates the pandemic.

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