ISM Manufacturing Report Shows Economy Continuing to Expand in September, But PMI Down 1.5%

  • New Orders, Production, and Employment Growing
  • Supplier Deliveries Slowing at Slower Rate; Backlog Growing
  • Raw Materials Inventories Growing; Customers’ Inventories Too Low
  • Prices Increasing at Slower Rate; Exports and Imports Growing

(Tempe, Arizona) — Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in September, and the overall economy grew for the 113th consecutive month, say the nation’s supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.

The report was issued today by Timothy R. Fiore, CPSM, C.P.M., Chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee: “The September PMI® registered 59.8 percent, a decrease of 1.5 percentage points from the August reading of 61.3 percent. The New Orders Index registered 61.8 percent, a decrease of 3.3 percentage points from the August reading of 65.1 percent. The Production Index registered 63.9 percent, a 0.6 percentage point increase compared to the August reading of 63.3 percent. The Employment Index registered 58.8 percent, an increase of 0.3 percentage point from the August reading of 58.5 percent. The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 61.1 percent, a 3.4-percentage point decrease from the August reading of 64.5 percent. The Inventories Index registered 53.3 percent, a decrease of 2.1 percentage points from the August reading of 55.4 percent. The Prices Index registered 66.9 percent in September, a 5.2-percentage point decrease from the August reading of 72.1 percent, indicating higher raw materials prices for the 31st consecutive month.

“Comments from the panel reflect continued expanding business strength. Demand remains strong, with the New Orders Index at 60 percent or above for the 17th straight month, and the Customers’ Inventories Index remaining low. The Backlog of Orders Index continued to expand, but at lower levels compared to the previous month. Consumption improved, with production and employment continuing to expand, at higher levels compared to August, despite shortages in labor and materials. Inputs — expressed as supplier deliveries (decreased), inventories and imports — improved compared to the previous month’s activity. But continued supply chain inefficiencies led to an increased consumption of inventory and a slight expansion of imports, which adequately supported production output. Lead-time extensions, steel and aluminum disruptions, supplier labor issues, and transportation difficulties continue to limit potential, but at more manageable levels.

“Export orders expanded, but four major industries are no longer contributing. Price pressure continues, but the index softened for the fourth straight month and dropped below 70 for the first time since December 2017. Demand remains robust, but employment resources and supply chains continue to struggle, but to a lesser degree. Respondents are again overwhelmingly concerned about tariff-related activity, including how reciprocal tariffs will impact company revenue and current manufacturing locations,” says Fiore.

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, 15 reported growth in September, in the following order: Textile Mills; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; Plastics & Rubber Products; Computer & Electronic Products; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Machinery; Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Paper Products; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Chemical Products; Petroleum & Coal Products; Transportation Equipment; Furniture & Related Products; Fabricated Metal Products; and Nonmetallic Mineral Products. The only industry reporting contraction in September is Primary Metals.

What Respondents Are Saying

  • “The market is in a state of chaos with the latest round of tariffs. As an electronics original equipment manufacturer, our component prices have been impacted almost across the board. The tariffs have caused a mass rush to buy up inventories of affected products in order to minimize the long-term financial impact. This, in turn, is causing market constraints, which further drive up the cost and increase lead times.” (Computer & Electronic Products)
  • “Tariffs starting to take a bite out of profitability.” (Chemical Products)
  • “Business is strong and relatively stable. Tariffs are putting pressure on Chinese imports. Labor rates are increasing as it is very difficult to find help.” (Furniture & Related Products)
  • “The economy’s strength is holding [and] outlook for the industry is positive, although continuing margin compression in consumer packaged goods is restricting general growth momentum from the greater economy.” (Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products)
  • “Still extremely strong through November; starting to see a decline for steel prices for December.” (Fabricated Metal Products)
  • “General available capacity at suppliers continues to decrease, creating supply issues.” (Machinery)
  • “Tariffs are creating a drag on some of our export opportunities.” (Plastics & Rubber Products)
  • “Sourcing hourly workers for remote locations continues to be a challenge for both full-time and part-time opportunities. Have implemented a wide variety of recruiting techniques and suppliers to aid us in sourcing this hard-to-find talent.” (Paper Products)
  • “Orders are coming in, but from a limited number of customers. The future looks very promising.” (Primary Metals)
  • “Suppliers are impacted by China tariffs, [which is] delaying or cancelling manufacturing transfer projects.” (Miscellaneous Manufacturing)



September 2018




Series Index


Series Index









Rate of Change


Trend* (Months)


59.8 61.3 -1.5 Growing Slower 25
New Orders 61.8 65.1 -3.3 Growing Slower 33


63.9 63.3 +0.6 Growing Faster 25
Employment 58.8 58.5 +0.3 Growing Faster 24
Supplier Deliveries 61.1 64.5 -3.4 Slowing Slower 24
Inventories 53.3 55.4 -2.1 Growing Slower 9
Customers’ Inventories 40.5 41.0 -0.5 Too Low Faster 24
Prices 66.9 72.1 -5.2 Increasing Slower 31
Backlog of Orders 55.7 57.5 -1.8 Growing Slower 20
New Export Orders 56.0 55.2 +0.8 Growing Faster 31
Imports 54.5 53.9 +0.6 Growing Faster 20
OVERALL ECONOMY Growing Slower 113
Manufacturing Sector Growing Slower 25

Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business® data is seasonally adjusted for the New Orders, Production, Employment and Supplier Deliveries Indexes.

*Number of months moving in current direction