Manufacturing PMI up; furniture and wood dip
Yellowhead Wood manufacturing

Manufacturing continued contracted with wood products and furniture and related products were two industries that saw a lot of contraction. 

TEMPE, Ariz. — While over economic activity was two points better than in December, it still contracted and wood products and furniture and related products are two industry categories that contracted the most in January, according to the latest report from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM).

Wood products contracted the most when compared to overall growth, new orders, and production, while furniture and related products underwent the fifth most contraction, third in terms of new orders, and ranked #6 in terms of contractions as it relates to production.

Economic activity in the manufacturing sector contracted in January for the 15th consecutive month following one month of "unchanged" status (a PMI reading of 50 percent) and 28 months of growth before that, 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 Manufacturing PMI registered 49.1 percent in January, up 2 percentage points from the seasonally adjusted 47.1 percent recorded in December. The overall economy continued in expansion for the 45th month after one month of contraction in April 2020. (A Manufacturing PMI above 42.5 percent, over a period of time, generally indicates an expansion of the overall economy.) The New Orders Index moved into expansion territory at 52.5 percent, 5.5 percentage points higher than the seasonally adjusted figure of 47 percent recorded in December. The January reading of the Production Index (50.4 percent) is 0.5 percentage point higher than December's seasonally adjusted figure of 49.9 percent. The Prices Index registered 52.9 percent, up 7.7 percentage points compared to the reading of 45.2 percent in December. The Backlog of Orders Index registered 44.7 percent, 0.6 percentage point lower than the 45.3 percent recorded in December. The Employment Index registered 47.1 percent, down 0.4 percentage point from December's seasonally adjusted figure of 47.5 percent.

"The Supplier Deliveries Index figure of 49.1 percent is 2.1 percentage points higher than the 47 percent recorded in December. (Supplier Deliveries is the only ISM Report On Business index that is inversed; a reading of above 50 percent indicates slower deliveries, which is typical as the economy improves and customer demand increases.)

"The Inventories Index increased 2.3 percentage points to 46.2 percent from December's seasonally adjusted reading of 43.9 percent. The New Export Orders Index reading of 45.2 percent is 4.7 percentage points lower than December's figure of 49.9 percent. The Imports Index moved into expansion territory, registering 50.1 percent, 3.7 percentage points higher than the 46.4 percent reported in December."

Fiore continues, "The U.S. manufacturing sector continued to contract, though at a marginal rate compared to December. Demand improved, output remained stable and inputs are accommodative.

Demand moderated, with the (1) New Orders Index expanding at a respectable rate, (2) New Export Orders Index in a headwind and (3) Backlog of Orders Index remaining above 40 percent but still in fairly strong contraction territory at 44.7 percent. Also, the Customers' Inventories Index contracted further, becoming more accommodative for future production. 

On balance, Output (measured by the Production and Employment indexes) expanded slightly, with a combined 0.1-percentage point upward impact on the Manufacturing PMI calculation. Panelists' companies maintained production levels month over month and continued head count reductions in January, with significant layoff activity. 

Inputs — defined as supplier deliveries, inventories, prices and imports — continued to accommodate future demand growth but are showing signs of stiffening. The Supplier Deliveries Index indicated faster deliveries for the 16th straight month, and the Inventories Index moved upward while remaining in moderate contraction territory. The Prices Index climbed into expansion (or 'increasing') territory as new pricing levels for 2024 went into effect.

"Two of the six biggest manufacturing industries (Transportation Equipment; and Chemical Products) registered growth in January.

"Demand remains soft but shows signs of improvement, and production execution is stable compared to December, as panelists' companies continue to manage outputs, material inputs and labor costs. Suppliers continue to have capacity. Sixty-two percent of manufacturing gross domestic product (GDP) contracted in January, down from 84 percent in December. More importantly, the share of sector GDP registering a composite PMI calculation at or below 45 percent — a good barometer of overall manufacturing weakness — was 27 percent in January, compared to 48 percent in December, and 54 percent in November. Among the top six industries by contribution to manufacturing GDP in January, two (Machinery; and Computer & Electronic Products) had a PMIat or below 45 percent, one fewer than in the previous month," says Fiore.

The four manufacturing industries reporting growth in January are: Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Textile Mills; Transportation Equipment; and Chemical Products. The 13 industries reporting contraction in January — in the following order — are: Wood Products; Machinery; Plastics & Rubber Products; Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Furniture & Related Products; Computer & Electronic Products; Fabricated Metal Products; Petroleum & Coal Products; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Paper Products; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; and Primary Metals.

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Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).