WASHINGTON—The manufacturing industry posted a net gain of 284,000 jobs in 2018, capping its best calendar year since 1997, the Labor Department announced earlier this week. Manufacturing gained 32,000 jobs in December. Most of the gains occurred in blue-collar durable goods manufacturing, with growth in fabricated metals and computer and electronic products.

"Our industry currently faces a workforce crisis with more than half a million open jobs today, and 2.4 million jobs expected to go unfilled over the next decade," says Dr. Chad Moutray, chief economist at the National Association of Manufacturers. "Closing the skills gap continues to be the top challenge facing manufacturers in the United States and is absolutely essential to ensuring that the sector continues to grow."

Health care and education saw the greatest month-over-month net change in job growth in December. Health care alone accounted for more than 50,000 new jobs in December. Education added 24,000 jobs. Home health care services, physician offices and other ambulatory care services accounted for more than 37,000 new positions while social assistance services added 7,700 jobs.

Retail trade employment, usually marked by larger swings in employment around the holiday season, added 23,800 jobs for the month. Construction added 38,000 jobs in December, with gains in heavy and civil engineering and nonresidential specialty trade construction. That sector added 280,000 jobs in 2018, topping the 2017 gain of 250,000.

Leisure and hospitality saw a net gain of 42,000 jobs. That industry includes workers in the arts and entertainment space, as well as hotel employees and members of the food service industry.