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ISM: Manufacturing Sector Expands in May Despite ‘Labor Obstacles’

June 07, 2021, 07:18 AM
Filed Under: Economy

Economic activity in the manufacturing sector grew in May, with the overall economy notching a 12th consecutive month of growth, according to the nation’s supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM Report On Business.

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

“The May Manufacturing PMI registered 61.2 percent, an increase of 0.5 percentage point from the April reading of 60.7 percent. This figure indicates expansion in the overall economy for the 12th month in a row after contraction in April 2020. The New Orders Index registered 67 percent, increasing 2.7 percentage points from the April reading of 64.3 percent. The Production Index registered 58.5 percent, a decrease of 4 percentage points compared to the April reading of 62.5 percent. The Backlog of Orders Index registered 70.6 percent, 2.4 percentage points higher compared to the April reading of 68.2 percent. The Employment Index registered 50.9 percent; 4.2 percentage points lower than the April reading of 55.1 percent. The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 78.8 percent, up 3.8 percentage points from the April figure of 75 percent. The Inventories Index registered 50.8 percent, 4.3 percentage points higher than the April reading of 46.5 percent. The Prices Index registered 88 percent, down 1.6 percentage points compared to the April reading of 89.6 percent. The New Export Orders Index registered 55.4 percent, an increase of 0.5 percentage point compared to the April reading of 54.9 percent. The Imports Index registered 54 percent, a 1.8-percentage point increase from the April reading of 52.2 percent.”

Fiore continued, “The manufacturing economy continued expansion in May. Business Survey Committee panelists reported that their companies and suppliers continue to struggle to meet increasing levels of demand. Record-long lead times, wide-scale shortages of critical basic materials, rising commodities prices and difficulties in transporting products are continuing to affect all segments of the manufacturing economy. Worker absenteeism, short-term shutdowns due to part shortages, and difficulties in filling open positions continue to be issues that limit manufacturing-growth potential. Optimistic panel sentiment increased, with 36 positive comments for every cautious comment, compared to an 11-to-1 ratio in April. Demand expanded, with the (1) New Orders Index growing at a strong level, supported by the New Export Orders Index continuing to expand, (2) Customers’ Inventories Index hitting another all-time low and (3) Backlog of Orders Index continuing at a record-high level. Consumption (measured by the Production and Employment indexes) indicated slowing expansion, posting a combined 8.2-percentage point decrease to the Manufacturing PMI® calculation. The Employment Index expanded for the sixth straight month, but panelists continue to note significant difficulties in attracting and retaining labor at their companies’ and suppliers’ facilities. Consumption was clearly limited due to labor issues and supply constraints as demand remains very high. Inputs — expressed as supplier deliveries, inventories, and imports — continued to support input-driven constraints to production expansion, at higher rates compared to April, due to continued trouble in supplier deliveries. Inputs positively contributed to the PMI calculation, by a combined 8.1 percentage points. Importation of items slightly improved in the period. (The Inventories and Supplier Deliveries indexes directly factor into the PMI; the Imports Index does not.) The Prices Index expanded for the 12th consecutive month, indicating continued supplier pricing power and scarcity of supply chain goods.

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

“Manufacturing performed well for the 12th straight month, with demand, consumption and inputs registering strong growth compared to April. Panelists companies and their supply chains continue to struggle to respond to strong demand due to the difficulty in hiring and retaining direct labor. Record backlog, customer inventories and raw material lead times are being reported. The manufacturing recovery has transitioned from first addressing demand headwinds, to now overcoming labor obstacles across the entire value chain,” said Fiore.

Sixteen of 18 manufacturing industries reported growth in May, in the following order: Furniture & Related Products; Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Plastics & Rubber Products; Textile Mills; Primary Metals; Computer & Electronic Products; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Fabricated Metal Products; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Machinery; Chemical Products; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; Transportation Equipment; Wood Products; Paper Products; and Petroleum & Coal Products. The only industry reporting contraction in May is Printing & Related Support Activities.


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