Manufacturing climbs again, but the struggle to meet demand is 'unprecedented'
September 2, 2021 | 11:44 am CDT
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Manufacturing saw another boost in August, with the overall economy notching a 15th consecutive month of growth, according to the Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) latest index reading. 

"The August Manufacturing PMI registered 59.9 percent, an increase of 0.4 percentage point from the July reading of 59.5 percent," said ISM chair Timothy R. Fiore. "This figure indicates expansion in the overall economy for the 15th month in a row after contraction in April 2020. 

The index showed that new orders rose 1.8 percent and production rose 1.6 percent over July.

But there are negatives. Employment dipped 3.9 percent to a reading of 49, a return to contraction. Backlogs rose 3.2 percent - the 14th straight month of expansion.  Raw material lead times are also at a record level.

"Panelists reported that their companies and suppliers continue to struggle at unprecedented levels to meet increasing demand," continued Fiore. "All segments of the manufacturing economy are impacted by record-long raw-materials lead times, continued shortages of critical basic materials, rising commodities prices, and difficulties in transporting products.

"The new surges of COVID-19 are adding to pandemic-related issues — worker absenteeism, short-term shutdowns due to parts shortages, difficulties in filling open positions and overseas supply chain problems — that continue to limit manufacturing-growth potential.

"However, optimistic panel sentiment remained strong, with eight positive comments for every cautious comment," he added. 

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, 14 reported growth in new orders, with furniture leading the charge. 16 industries reported paying increased prices for raw materials, with furniture among them. 

Furniture manufacturers say:

"Bookings/sales continue to be strong. Persistent supply issues — including availability of materials, freight/logistics/containers, and allocation of key commodities — continue to hamper production ramp to meet demand. Also struggling with lack of labor in several factories. Commodities are still inflationary, but price increases have leveled."

Another notable find according to the index is that lumber is the only material that is down in price. Every other commodity - from adhesives to cement to electronic components to rubber products and steel - saw an increase.

See the full report here.


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Robert Dalheim

Robert Dalheim is an editor at the Woodworking Network. Along with publishing online news articles, he writes feature stories for the FDMC print publication. He can be reached at