US mfg expands in February

3 March, 2021 12:00 AM printer

WASHINGTON: Manufacturing continues to be a bright spot in the pandemic-ravaged US economy, adapting and responding to higher demand in February, according to an industry survey released Monday.

The Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) manufacturing index hit its highest point since February 2018 -- rising 2.1 percentage points to 60.8 percent, a level not exceeded since May 2004, reports AFP.

It was the ninth consecutive month of growth -- with the index above the 50-percent threshold indicating expansion -- and came on a big jump in new orders and output, the survey showed.

Only two of the 18 manufacturing industries showed signs of slowing, including petroleum and coal, the same as in January.

ISM survey chair Timothy Fiore said the recovery continues as companies and suppliers "operate in reconfigured factories" due to Covid-19.

"Issues with absenteeism, short-term shutdowns to sanitize facilities and difficulties in hiring workers remain challenges and continue to cause strains that limit manufacturing-growth potential," he said in a statement.

He cautioned that ongoing issues finding workers "continued to restrict manufacturing-economy expansion and will remain the primary headwind" until things return to normal, but, "optimistic panel sentiment increased, with five positive comments for every cautious comment."

The prices index also increased for the ninth straight month, and order backlogs also rose, the survey showed, indicating continued momentum.

"We look for manufacturing growth to gradually slow in the summer as rising vaccine diffusion lifts severely damaged services sector activity at the expense of goods demand," said Oren Klachkin of Oxford Economics.

"However, factories will maintain positive momentum even after the pandemic ends," he said in an analysis.