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Source:  Institute for Supply Management – January 4, 2021

Economic activity in the manufacturing sector grew in December, with the overall economy notching an eighth consecutive month of growth, say the nation’s supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.

The report was issued today by Timothy R. Fiore, CPSM, C.P.M., Chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee:

“The December Manufacturing PMI® registered 60.7 percent, up 3.2 percentage points from the November reading of 57.5 percent. This figure indicates expansion in the overall economy for the eighth month in a row after contracting in March, April, and May, which ended a period of 131 consecutive months of growth. The New Orders Index registered 67.9 percent, up 2.8 percentage points from the November reading of 65.1 percent. The Production Index registered 64.8 percent, an increase of 4 percentage points compared to the November reading of 60.8 percent. The Backlog of Orders Index registered 59.1 percent, 2.2 percentage points higher compared to the November reading of 56.9 percent. The Employment Index returned to expansion territory at 51.5 percent, 3.1 percentage points higher from the November reading of 48.4 percent. The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 67.6 percent, up 5.9 percentage points from the November figure of 61.7 percent. The Inventories Index registered 51.6 percent, 0.4 percentage point higher than the November reading of 51.2 percent. The Prices Index registered 77.6 percent, up 12.2 percentage points compared to the November reading of 65.4 percent. The New Export Orders Index registered 57.5 percent, a decrease of 0.3 percentage point compared to the November reading of 57.8 percent. The Imports Index registered 54.6 percent, a 0.5-percentage point decrease from the November reading of 55.1 percent.”

Fiore continues, “The manufacturing economy continued its recovery in December. Survey Committee members reported that their companies and suppliers continue to operate in reconfigured factories, but absenteeism, short-term shutdowns to sanitize facilities and difficulties in returning and hiring workers are causing strains that are limiting manufacturing growth potential. However, panel sentiment remains optimistic (three positive comments for every cautious comment), an improvement compared to November. Demand expanded, with the (1) New Orders Index growing at a strong level, supported by the New Export Orders Index expanding, (2) Customers’ Inventories Index remaining in ‘too low’ territory and at a level considered a positive for future production, and the (3) Backlog of Orders Index achieving a 2½-year high. Consumption (measured by the Production and Employment indexes) contributed positively (a combined 7.1-percentage point increase) to the Manufacturing PMI® calculation. The Production Index hit a 10-year high, as the last reading above 64.8 percent was in January 2011 (65.3 percent), with five of the top six industries reporting moderate to strong expansion. The Employment Index moved into expansion after a single month of contraction, due to the inability to attract and retain direct labor. Inputs — expressed as supplier deliveries, inventories and imports — continued to indicate input-driven constraints to production expansion, at higher rates compared to November, as indicated by minimal gains in inventory levels and difficulties in expanding imports. Supply chains continue to struggle compared to November, contributing moderately to the Manufacturing PMI® calculation. (The Supplier Deliveries and Inventories indexes directly factor into the Manufacturing PMI®; the Imports Index does not.) The Prices Index jumped dramatically in December, to a level last reached in the summer of 2018, the peak of the last manufacturing expansion cycle.

“All six of the biggest manufacturing industries — Fabricated Metal Products; Computer & Electronic Products; Transportation Equipment; Chemical Products; Petroleum & Coal Products; and Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products — registered moderate to strong growth in December.

“Manufacturing performed well for the seventh straight month, with demand, consumption and inputs registering strong growth compared to November. Labor market difficulties at panelists’ companies and their suppliers will continue to restrict the manufacturing economy expansion until the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis ends,” says Fiore.

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, 16 reported growth in December, in the following order: Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Furniture & Related Products; Wood Products; Fabricated Metal Products; Machinery; Computer & Electronic Products; Transportation Equipment; Plastics & Rubber Products; Paper Products; Chemical Products; Petroleum & Coal Products; Primary Metals; Textile Mills; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; and Miscellaneous Manufacturing. The two industries reporting contraction in December are: Printing & Related Support Activities; and Nonmetallic Mineral Products.

Click here to access the entire release from the Institute for Supply Management website.