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December U.S. Manufacturing PMI® Contracts to 48.4%

Economic activity in the manufacturing sector contracted in December for the second consecutive month following a 29-month period of growth, say U.S. supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.

  • New Orders and Production Contracting
  • Backlogs Contracting
  • Supplier Deliveries Faster
  • Raw Materials Inventories Growing; Customers’ Inventories Too Low
  • Prices Decreasing; Exports and Imports Contracting

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

“The December Manufacturing PMI® registered 48.4 percent, 0.6 percentage point lower than the 49 percent recorded in November. Regarding the overall economy, this figure indicates contraction after 30 straight months of expansion. The Manufacturing PMI® figure is the lowest since May 2020, when it registered 43.5 percent. The New Orders Index remained in contraction territory at 45.2 percent, 2 percentage points lower than the 47.2 percent recorded in November. The Production Index reading of 48.5 percent is a 3-percentage point decrease compared to November’s figure of 51.5 percent. The Prices Index registered 39.4 percent, down 3.6 percentage points compared to the November figure of 43 percent; this is the index’s lowest reading since April 2020 (35.3 percent). The Backlog of Orders Index registered 41.4 percent, 1.4 percentage points higher than the November reading of 40 percent. The Employment Index returned to expansion territory (51.4 percent, up 3 percentage points) after contracting in November (48.4 percent). The Supplier Deliveries Index reading of 45.1 percent is 2.1 percentage points lower than the November figure of 47.2 percent; this is the index’s lowest reading since March 2009 (43.2 percent). The Inventories Index registered 51.8 percent, 0.9 percentage point higher than the November reading of 50.9 percent. The New Export Orders Index reading of 46.2 percent is down 2.2 percentage points compared to November’s figure of 48.4 percent. The Imports Index continued in contraction territory at 45.1 percent, 1.5 percentage points below the November reading of 46.6 percent.”

Fiore continues, “The U.S. manufacturing sector again contracted, with the Manufacturing PMI® at its lowest level since the coronavirus pandemic recovery began. With Business Survey Committee panelists reporting softening new order rates over the previous seven months, the December composite index reading reflects companies’ slowing their output. Demand eased, with the (1) New Orders Index remaining in contraction territory, (2) New Export Orders Index markedly below 50 percent, (3) Customers’ Inventories Index in ‘just right’ territory, and (4) Backlog of Orders Index recovering slightly but still in strong contraction. Output/Consumption (measured by the Production and Employment indexes) was neutral, with a combined zero-percentage point impact on the Manufacturing PMI® calculation. The Employment Index moved back into expansion, and the Production Index dropped into contraction territory. Many panelists’ companies confirm that they are continuing to manage head counts through a combination of hiring freezes, employee attrition and layoffs. Inputs — defined as supplier deliveries, inventories, prices and imports — accommodated future demand growth. The Supplier Deliveries Index indicated faster deliveries, and the Inventories Index expanded at a faster rate as panelists’ companies continued to effectively manage the total supply chain inventory. The Prices Index contracted for the third consecutive month and has declined in each reading since March 2022, when it registered 87.1 percent.

WHAT RESPONDENTS ARE SAYING

  • “Skilled labor shortages are huge, putting a lot of pressure on existing personnel. Electronic components still a major supply chain issue, particularly if the component you need is not the current hot technology.” [Computer & Electronic Products]
  • “Orders are really slowing down in the original equipment sector. We haven’t seen a major output decrease because we are still eating away at our back orders.” [Transportation Equipment]
  • “The continued uncertainty in the economy has resulted in customers delaying their commitments for capital purchases, which is impacting our fourth quarter sales and lowering our forecast for the first quarter of 2023.” [Machinery]
  • “Trying hard to keep the wheels moving to close out the year strong. The manufacturing plants are nearing their annual outage periods, and some TLC is needed to keep things running.” [Nonmetallic Mineral Products]
  • “Finished the year strong, and we are pleased with how the year shaped up.” [Primary Metals]
  • “New China technology trade restrictions have impacted our business and plans going forward.” [Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components]
  • “Overall, supply chain conditions have stabilized tremendously since the fourth quarter of 2021. Issues remain, but the list is quite a bit shorter. Customer demand is very strong, and the outlook is positive for 2023. There is a large focus on margin recovery after this period of high inflation.” [Miscellaneous Manufacturing]

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