U.S. Manufacturing Grows For 10th Month

By Agence France-Presse American manufacturers boosted activity for the 10th straight month in March, and factory jobs growth accelerated, a survey showed April 1. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) purchasing managers' index, based on a survey of supply executives, rose 1.1 percentage points from February to 62.5% in March. It was the 10th month in a row above 50%, indicating expansion in manufacturing activity. The survey showed factory jobs growth picked up, with the employment index rising 0.7 percentage points to 57%. It was the fifth month of expanding manufacturing employment in the survey following a 37-month contraction. Official figures show manufacturers have shed 2.8 million jobs since January 2001. Among other key findings in the ISM survey:

  • Factory output accelerated, with the production index rising 1.6 percentage points to 65.5%.
  • New orders grew, albeit at a slower pace, with the index dipping 0.7 percentage points to 65.7%. The backlog of orders expanded at a faster pace, with the index up 1.5 percentage points to 63.5%.
  • Prices paid by manufacturers climbed faster, with the index surging to 86% from 81.5%.
Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI President and CEO Thomas Duesterberg said the ISM survey confirmed strong momentum in the sector. "We expect to see continued growth for the remainder of 2004," Duesterberg said. "Although rising input costs are squeezing profit margins, today's report also confirms that firms are hiring production workers to meet growing demand." The ISM survey found some commodities in short supply: aluminum, steel, galvanized steel, stainless steel, cold rolled steel, propylene, electronic components and dynamic random access memory (DRAM) microchips. In other reports, producer prices crawled 0.1% higher in February, after a 0.6% jump in January, the Labor Department said. Wholesale prices were up 2.1% over the year. Also, the number of people lodging new claims for unemployment benefits fell 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 342,000 in the week ended March 27, after a gain of 12,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2004
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