US economy

Virus hampers US manufacturing growth in November 2020 – survey

Agence France-Presse
Virus hampers US manufacturing growth in November 2020 – survey

FACE MASKS. A New Balance associate makes face masks at the company's factory in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on March 31, 2020.

File photo by New Balance/AFP

Key indicators in the United States manufacturing sector are slowing as the country weathers the world's largest COVID-19 outbreak

The United States manufacturing sector continued to grow in November but the coronavirus pandemic was still exacting a toll, particularly on employment, a survey said on Tuesday, December 1.

The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing index was at 57.5% last month, slightly worse than expected but still above the 50% threshold indicating growth.

The report marked the 7th consecutive month of growth since the index contracted sharply in the early days of the pandemic, but November’s report shows key indicators slowing as the US weathers the world’s largest COVID-19 outbreak.

“Members reported that their companies and suppliers continue to operate in reconfigured factories, but absenteeism, short-term shutdowns to sanitize facilities, and difficulties in returning and hiring workers are causing strains that will likely limit future manufacturing growth potential,” the survey’s chair Timothy R. Fiore said.

New orders declined nearly 3 points to 65.1%, production by 2.2 points to 60.8%, and employment dropped 4.8 points to 48.4%, returning it to contraction in a sign of the headwinds facing workers laid off by the pandemic’s business disruptions.

The data comes as the US deals with yet another resurgence of virus cases nationwide, which have in some areas reached levels unseen since the start of the pandemic.

However Fiore said the survey found firms optimistic, with more than twice as many positive comments for each negative one received.

“Suppliers are still experiencing labor shortages resulting in component constraints. However, we’re seeing life from customers, so there’s a positive outlook moving into the 1st quarter of 2021,” a computer and electronic products company told the survey.

Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics pointed to the 2.1-percentage-point rise in new export orders to 57.8% as an indication that US factories are benefiting from other countries’ economic recoveries.

“The US manufacturing upswing lost a bit of momentum last month, but a reacceleration when the 3rd COVID wave fades is a good bet,” he wrote in an analysis. –

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