Turns out there's a bit of light at the end of this year's very dark tunnel.
North American production in November rose 7 percent from a year earlier to 911,157 light vehicles, the first monthly improvement in 21 months. And December output is expected to beat December 2008 as demand slowly inches higher from a multidecade nadir.
But considering how ghastly the first half of 2009 was, almost any production improvement will look great on a year-over-year basis for the next several months.
North American production cratered in the first half of the year to below 3.5 million units -- less than half the production in the first six months of 2008. And 2008's first half was pretty lousy itself, down 12 percent from the same 2007 period.
With production improving in 2010, manufacturing employment at North American automakers and their suppliers will rise, says Sean McAlinden, chief economist of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.
"However, we will not recover to the previous level of jobs," he said.