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Manufacturing ISM Up 12th Straight Month But Employment Slows to a Crawl

The manufacturing ISM expands with reports of record backlogs and difficulties in filling open positions.
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ISM 2021-05

The Manufacturing ISM shows manufacturing growth for the 12th month. 

ISM Details

  • All five subindexes that directly factor into the Manufacturing PMI® were in growth territory. 
  • All of the six biggest manufacturing industries expanded, in the following order: Computer & Electronic Products; Fabricated Metal Products; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Chemical Products; Transportation Equipment; and Petroleum & Coal Products. 
  • The New Orders and Production indexes continued to expand at strong levels. The Supplier Deliveries Index continued to reflect suppliers’ difficulties in maintaining delivery rates, due to a lack of direct labor, transportation challenges and increased demand. 
  • All 10 subindexes were positive for the period.
  • A reading above 50 percent indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding; below 50 percent indicates that it is generally contracting.

Comments by ISM Chair Timothy Fiore

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  • “Manufacturing performed well for the 12th straight month, with demand, consumption and inputs registering strong growth compared to April. Panelists companies and their supply chains continue to struggle to respond to strong demand due to the difficulty in hiring and retaining direct labor.
  • "Record backlog, customer inventories and raw material lead times are being reported. The manufacturing recovery has transitioned from first addressing demand headwinds, to now overcoming labor obstacles across the entire value chain” 
  • A reading of ‘too low’ for Customers’ Inventories Index is considered a positive for future production.”
  • “The manufacturing economy continued expansion in May. Business Survey Committee panelists reported that their companies and suppliers continue to struggle to meet increasing levels of demand."
  • "Record-long lead times, wide-scale shortages of critical basic materials, rising commodities prices and difficulties in transporting products are continuing to affect all segments of the manufacturing economy."
  • Worker absenteeism, short-term shutdowns due to part shortages, and difficulties in filling open positions continue to be issues that limit manufacturing-growth potential. 

Commodities in Short Supply 

Acrylates; Aluminum (2); Aluminum Products; Coatings; Corrugated Boxes (7); Electrical Components (8); Electronic Components (6); Foam Products (3); Labor — Temporary; Lumber (3); Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF); Nylon Fiber (2); Ocean Freight (2); Plastic Containers; Plastic Products (4); Plastic Resins — Other (3); Polycarbonates; Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) Products; Polypropylene (2); Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Resin; Printed Circuit Boards; Printed Circuit Board Assemblies; Semiconductors (6); Steel (6); Steel — Cold Rolled; Steel — Galvanized; Steel — Hot Rolled (7); Steel — Stainless (3); Steel Bars; Steel Products (4); Steel Tubing; and Wood — Pallets (2).

The number of consecutive months the commodity is listed is indicated after each item.

This report will add to reports regarding inflation concerns