U.S. manufacturing still expanding, but barely

After a sluggish August, September showed slight improvement for the U.S. manufacturing community.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM, Tempe, Ariz., USA) on Oct. 3 reported that economic activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector expanded in September 2011 for the 26th consecutive month, and the overall economy grew for the 28th consecutive month. ISM's Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) registered 51.6 percent, following an August value of 50.6 percent. A reading of more than 50 percent indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding; less than 50 percent indicates that it is generally contracting.

The report was issued by Bradley J. Holcomb, CPSM, CPSD, chair of the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. “The PMI registered 51.6 percent, an increase of 1 percentage point from August, indicating expansion in the manufacturing sector for the 26th consecutive month, at a slightly higher rate. The Production Index registered 51.2 percent, indicating a return to growth after contracting in August for the first time since May of 2009. The New Orders Index remained unchanged from August at 49.6 percent, indicating contraction for the third consecutive month. The Backlog of Orders Index decreased 4.5 percentage points to 41.5 percent, contracting for the fourth consecutive month and reaching its lowest level since April 2009, when it registered 40.5 percent. Comments from respondents generally reflect concern over the sluggish economy, political and policy uncertainty in Washington, and forecasts of ongoing high unemployment that will continue to put pressure on demand for manufactured products.” 

12-month ISM Manufacturing Index history (percent):

  • September 2011: 51.6
  • August 2011: 50.6
  • July 2011: 50.9
  • June 2011: 55.3
  • May 2011: 53.5
  • April 2011: 60.4
  • March 2011: 61.2
  • February 2011: 61.4
  • January 2011: 60.8
  • December 2010: 57.0
  • November 2010: 56.6
  • October 2010: 56.9