Despite predictions from some experts, manufacturing jobs have started the year with strong gains.

Last month the nation's factories defied the odds, adding 50,000 jobs - which was the strongest showing over the past 12 months.

Rutgers economist James Hughes says "manufacturing was devastated during the great recession, so part of this growth reflects the comeback from the deep hole that manufacturing had fallen in - it is being driven by a very weak dollar- which makes U.S. exports much cheaper around the world - so a lot of the manufacturing growth reflects the growth in exports - and it also reflects the amazing comeback of the American automobile industry - which was a basket-case as we fell into the depths of the recession."

He points out "our high mileage cars weren't competitive with our foreign challengers, but the industry has essentially reinvented itself with the federal rescue package - all of a sudden GM, Ford, and even Chrysler are making substantial profits."

Hughes adds there are other sectors within manufacturing - where we're very competitive, and "one would be Caterpillar- which makes construction equipment - which are exported throughout the world…while the manufacturing sector has showed surprising strength in recent months, a rebound for the construction industry is still at lease a year away, because we still have an overbuilt housing environment, we still have foreclosures, office buildings have very high vacancy rates and the nation is over-stored…we shouldn't see a big construction rebound any time soon - the only real strong part of construction has been federal infrastructure spending."