US manufacturing fails to pick up the pace

Latest figures show a decline in US factory orders, dashing hopes of an upcoming manufacturing uptick

Manufacturing plants in the US are still suffering from dropping factory orders, with several optimistic figures for 2016 now reduced  

Revised figures show that 2016 has been a weaker year for manufacturing in the US than previous results had suggested. New figures from the US Department of Commerce show that February saw factory orders fall by a total of 1.7 percent, or $454bn.

The slump in factory orders marks a reversal of gains made in January: during this month, US factories saw an increase of orders by 1.2 percent, according to revised figures. However, this gain was already a downward revision from the previously reported figure of 1.6 percent.

Figures for durable goods orders in February were particularly disappointing, falling by three percent to $229.1bn. This itself was a downward revision from the 2.8 percent decrease previously published in the advanced report. Likewise, this figure represents a heavy cut to the gains in durable goods orders in January, which stood at 4.3 percent. Alongside this, in February core capital goods orders fell by 2.5 percent, while non-durable goods fell by 0.4 percent.

The latest figures for February may deflate hopes of an uptick for manufacturing in 2016. Manufacturing figures in the US have seen weakness across a number of measures: the US PMI Manufacturing Index for March stood at 51.5 in its final reading. Although this was a slight gain on early released results, it still represented only a slight improvement from February’s 51.0 figure, despite an anticipated strong improvement.

Likewise, the Bureau of Labour Statistics’ employment report for March showed that while solid gains were made in other industries, employment in manufacturing took a heavy hit. The BLS report noted: “Employment in manufacturing declined by 29,000 in March.” Of these job loses, 24,000 occurred in durable goods manufacturing, including machinery, primary metals and semi conductor components.