Economic Concerns: US Manufacturing Slump Deepens, But Inflationary Pressures Stay in Check

by / ⠀Blog / July 4, 2023
Economic Concerns: US Manufacturing Slump Deepens, But Inflationary Pressures Stay in Check

The US manufacturing sector continues to face challenges as it experiences a deepening slump in June. The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) dropped to 46.0, the lowest reading since May 2020, indicating a contraction in manufacturing for the eighth consecutive month. This slump, reminiscent of the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to layoffs and concerns about a potential recession. However, amidst this gloomy outlook, there is a silver lining – inflationary pressures at the factory gate continue to deflate, providing some relief for the economy.

The ISM’s manufacturing PMI serves as an important indicator of the health of the manufacturing sector. A reading below 50 suggests contraction, while a reading above 50 indicates expansion. With the PMI at 46.0 in June, it is evident that the manufacturing sector is facing significant challenges.

Economists had predicted a slight increase in the index, but the actual decline reflects a deteriorating situation. The manufacturing industry accounts for 11.1% of the US economy, and with a contraction rate of 5.3% in the first quarter, as indicated by government data, the concerns of a recession are mounting.

Andrew Hunter, Deputy Chief U.S. Economist at Capital Economics, states, “This provides further reason to suspect that a recession is on the horizon.” The prolonged period of the PMI staying below 50 is the longest since the Great Recession, adding to the worries about the state of the economy.

Several factors contribute to the deepening slump in US manufacturing. One significant factor is the tightening of credit following the financial market turmoil earlier this year. The exorbitant borrowing costs have impacted the manufacturing sector, making it harder for businesses to invest and expand.

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Another contributing factor is the shift in consumer spending from goods to services. With businesses and consumers being more cautious, spending on goods, which is typically done on credit, has decreased. This shift in spending patterns has affected manufacturers who rely on the purchase of goods.

In addition, the manufacturing sector is grappling with inventory management as businesses anticipate weak demand. Manufacturers are carefully managing their inventories, resulting in decreased production levels.

The slump in US manufacturing has had a direct impact on employment in the sector. The ISM survey revealed a decline in factory employment, with the employment sub-index dropping to 48.1 in June from 51.4 in May. There is some uncertainty as to whether or not this component index can accurately anticipate manufacturing employment in the government’s nonfarm payrolls tally, although it does coincide with forecasts of slower hiring near the end of the year.

The manufacturing industry’s employment situation is a concern as layoffs become more prevalent. Companies are resorting to layoffs to cope with shrinking activity. According to Timothy Fiore, Chair of the ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, layoffs are happening “to a greater extent than in prior months.” This trend highlights the challenges faced by the manufacturing sector and adds to the overall economic uncertainty.

While the manufacturing sector experiences a deepening slump, there is a glimmer of hope in the form of deflating inflationary pressures. According to the ISM report, factory input costs dropped to 41.8 from 44.2 in May. Higher financing costs and the removal of supply-chain bottlenecks are to blame for this drop.

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The delivery performance of suppliers to manufacturing organizations has improved, leading to goods disinflation. However, it is important to note that services inflation remains sticky due to stronger wage growth in a tight labor market and higher rents for housing.

Despite the overall slump in US manufacturing, there are pockets of strength in certain industries. According to the ISM study, only the transportation equipment sector expanded in June among the six major industries surveyed. This indicates solid demand for transportation equipment, although manufacturers in this sector expressed concerns about a potential sales decrease in the second quarter.

Other industries that experienced growth in June include printing, nonmetallic mineral products, and primary metals. However, there were 11 industry groups that contracted, including wood products, textile mills, electrical equipment, appliances and components, machinery, and computer and electronic products.

While manufacturing faces challenges, the housing sector appears to be reviving. The Commerce Department’s report showed a rebound in spending on residential construction, with a 2.2% increase in May after a 0.9% drop in the previous month. Investment in single-family housing projects also accelerated by 1.7%.

The revival of the housing sector can be attributed to the limited inventory of existing homes for sale. Homeowners are reluctant to sell in a weaker real estate market, which has led to an increase in demand for single-family housing. This trend has contributed to an overall boost in construction spending.

The US manufacturing sector’s deepening slump raises concerns about the overall state of the economy. While hard data such as nonfarm payrolls, unemployment benefits, and housing starts suggest that the economy is still grinding along, the risks of a downturn have increased.

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The Federal Reserve’s tightening of interest rates, with a 500 basis points increase since March 2022, is a significant factor contributing to the risks of a recession. Businesses and consumers are grappling with the impact of this rapid monetary policy tightening, which is the fastest in over 40 years.

The manufacturing sector’s performance and the potential for a recession will continue to be closely monitored by economists and policymakers. The hope is that the deflating inflationary pressures will provide some relief and support the overall economic recovery.

The deepening slump in US manufacturing presents significant challenges for the economy. The ISM’s manufacturing PMI dropping to its lowest level since May 2020, coupled with layoffs and concerns about a potential recession, highlight the need for careful monitoring and strategic action.

While inflationary pressures at the factory gate continue to deflate, providing some relief, the manufacturing sector still faces headwinds such as tightened credit and shifting consumer spending patterns. Pockets of strength in certain industries and the revival of the housing sector offer some hope amidst the overall slump.

As the economy grapples with uncertainties, policymakers and businesses must navigate these challenges and seek opportunities for growth. The path to recovery will require strategic planning, innovation, and adaptability in the face of a changing economic landscape.

About The Author

Kimberly Zhang

Editor in Chief of Under30CEO. I have a passion for helping educate the next generation of leaders.

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