ISM Index Shows Second Month Of Manufacturing Growth

By John S. McClenahen The manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy -- at least in terms of production -- does appear finally to be coming out of recession. The Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) latest Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI) shows that U.S. manufacturing grew in August for the second consecutive month. The Tempe, Ariz.-based group's index was 54.7% in August, up nearly three percentage points from July's 51.1%. An index reading above 50% indicates that the U.S. manufacturing sector generally is growing; a figure below 50% signals contraction in manufacturing. "Though two months do not establish a trend, there is strength in various segments of this report that we have not seen in some time," says Norbert J. Ore, chairperson of ISM's manufacturing business survey committee and group director of strategic sourcing and procurement at Georgia-Pacific Corp. For example, Ore notes that both the new orders and production components of the overall index have been above 50% for four consecutive months. Jerry J. Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C., describes the PMI figure as "the first evidence that the manufacturing recovery continued to pick up speed in August." However, manufacturing production continues to far outpace manufacturing job creation. For example, the employment component of the August PMI revealed U.S. manufacturing losing jobs for the 35th consecutive month. "However, with production increasing, I expect manufacturing employment to stabilize in the months to come and show a modest recovery in 2004," says NAM's Jasinowski. "How much recovery will depend upon whether our government gets serious about a level playing field with our foreign competitors and keeping a lid on production costs at home."

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