Share
August 3, 2020 2:30 PM, EDT

US Manufacturing Improves in July, According to ISM

But Outlook Is Clouded by COVID-19 Outbreaks
Metal worker using a grinderA metal worker uses a grinder. For the second straight month, the index was above 50, indicating growth in the manufacturing sector. (Phynart Studio/Getty Images)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

WASHINGTON — U.S. manufacturing improved again in July with a key gauge of activity rising further into expansion territory.

The Institute for Supply Management, an association of purchasing managers, said Aug. 3 that its manufacturing index rose to 54.2 last month, up from a June reading of 52.6. Any reading above 50 signals that U.S. manufacturing is expanding.

The index dipped below 50 in March, indicating a recession in manufacturing as the coronavirus pandemic shut down factories. The overall economy fell into a recession in February, and the government reported last week that the gross domestic product plunged at an annual rate of 32.9% in the April-June quarter, the biggest drop on record to 1947.

While it was the second straight month that the index has been above the 50 threshold, indicating manufacturing is expanding again, economists cautioned that the outlook is clouded by spreading infections in the U.S. in the South, West and Midwest.

Newsmakers host Dan Ronan

Transport Topics introduces its newest digital interview series, Newsmakers, aimed at helping leaders in trucking and freight transportation navigate turbulent times. Audience members will gain access to the industry's leading expert in their particular field and the thoughtful moderation of a Transport Topics journalist. Our second episode — "The Evolution of Electric Trucks" — featured Nikola founder and executive chairman Trevor Milton. To view the replay, complete this form.

“Manufacturing is recovering from low levels and the outlook is uncertain, given the threat of repeated disruptions from virus outbreaks,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

Timothy Fiore, chair of the ISM manufacturing survey committee, said it was encouraging that positive comments from survey participants were running 2-to-1 ahead of more cautious comments.

The index tracking new orders posted a strong gain of 5.1 percentage points from the June reading while the production index was up 4.8 percentage points. The orders backlog index was also up.

Of 18 manufacturing industries, 13 reported growth in July, led by wood products and furniture and related products. The three industries reporting contractions were transportation equipment, machinery and fabricated metal products.

“The health and economic crisis are inextricably linked, and the economic recovery cannot be ensured until the impact of the virus is contained,” said Oren Klachkin, lead U.S. economist for Oxford Economics. “We expect manufacturing to grow gradually ahead with botched management of the pandemic and ongoing virus-related uncertainty set to constrain activity.”

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing: