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December 2019 Manufacturing ISM PMI 47.2% vs 49% Expected

January 3, 2020

Economic activity in the manufacturing sector contracted in December, and the overall economy grew for the 128th consecutive month, say the nation's supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.

The report was issued by Timothy R. Fiore, CPSM, C.P.M., Chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee: "The December PMI® registered 47.2 percent, a decrease of 0.9 percentage point from the November reading of 48.1 percent. This is the PMI®'s lowest reading since June 2009, when it registered 46.3 percent. The New Orders Index registered 46.8 percent, a decrease of 0.4 percentage point from the November reading of 47.2 percent. The Production Index registered 43.2 percent, down 5.9 percentage points compared to the November reading of 49.1 percent. The Backlog of Orders Index registered 43.3 percent, up 0.3 percentage point compared to the November reading of 43 percent. The Employment Index registered 45.1 percent, a 1.5-percentage point decrease from the November reading of 46.6 percent. The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 54.6 percent, a 2.6-percentage point increase from the November reading of 52 percent. The Inventories Index registered 46.5 percent, an increase of 1 percentage point from the November reading of 45.5 percent. The Prices Index registered 51.7 percent, a 5-percentage point increase from the November reading of 46.7 percent. The New Export Orders Index registered 47.3 percent, a 0.6-percentage point decrease from the November reading of 47.9 percent. The Imports Index registered 48.8 percent, a 0.5-percentage point increase from the November reading of 48.3 percent.

"Comments from the panel were consistent with November, with sentiment improving compared to the third quarter. December was the fifth consecutive month of PMI® contraction, at a faster rate compared to the prior month. Demand contracted, with the New Orders Index contracting faster, the Customers' Inventories Index remaining at `too low' status and the Backlog of Orders Index contracting for the eighth straight month (and at similar rates to November). The New Export Orders Index contracted for the second month in a row, recording 10 months of poor performance and likely contributing to the faster contraction of the New Orders Index. Consumption (measured by the Production and Employment indexes) contracted, due primarily to lack of demand, contributing negatively (a combined 7.4-percentage point decrease) to the PMI® calculation. Inputs — expressed as supplier deliveries, inventories and imports — improved in December, due primarily to slowing contraction in inventories and supplier deliveries remaining in expansion territory. Imports contraction eased slightly. Overall, inputs indicate (1) supply chains began to stress in December and (2) companies remained cautious that materials received would be consumed by the end of the fourth quarter. Prices increased for the first time since May 2019, a positive for 2020.

"Global trade remains the most significant cross-industry issue, but there are signs that several industry sectors will improve as a result of the phase-one trade agreement between the U.S. and China. Among the six big industry sectors, Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products remains the strongest, while Transportation Equipment is the weakest. Overall, sentiment this month is marginally positive regarding near-term growth," says Fiore.

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, three reported growth in December: Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; and Computer & Electronic Products. The 15 industries reporting contraction in December — listed in order — are: Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Wood Products; Printing & Related Support Activities; Furniture & Related Products; Transportation Equipment; Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Paper Products; Fabricated Metal Products; Petroleum & Coal Products; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Textile Mills; Primary Metals; Chemical Products; Plastics & Rubber Products; and Machinery.

WHAT RESPONDENTS ARE SAYING

  • "Backlog of orders is shrinking due to new order pace continuing to fall." (Computer & Electronic Products)
  • "Due to sluggish sales, we have introduced promotions to generate increased sales." (Chemical Products)
  • "Cautiously optimistic is the rule these days. Sales are decent, but we're wondering what 2020 will bring. Still hedging that it will be successful — but maybe not as much as this year." (Transportation Equipment)
  • "Starting to see suppliers try to pass on costs associated with tariffs. Uncertainty on the trade front continues to keep agricultural markets on the defensive." (Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products)
  • "Down month-to-month, but up over last year." (Miscellaneous Manufacturing)
  • "Anticipated large export orders did not materialize. As a result, expected U.S. production has decreased." (Fabricated Metal Products)
  • "Dealer inventories have rebounded, and overall customer market has softened, resulting in corrections to near-term production schedules and a tentative forecast outlook." (Machinery)
  • "Export markets continue to weaken for plastic resins — Mexican producers are actually trying to sell product back into the U.S. due to weak in-country demand." (Plastics & Rubber Products)
  • "Our outlook for the first quarter of 2020 is positive. We have secured contracts from a number of former customers and expect sales growth of about 5 percent over Q4 of 2019." (Textile Mills)
  • "The construction market seems to have slowed for end of year. Overall, it’s marginally up." (Nonmetallic Mineral Products)

Manufacturing at a Glance
December 2019

Index Series Index Dec Series Index Nov Percentage Point Change Direction Rate of Change Trend* (Months)
PMI® 47.2 48.1 -0.9 Contracting Faster 5
New Orders 46.8 47.2 -0.4 Contracting Faster 5
Production 43.2 49.1 -5.9 Contracting Faster 5
Employment 45.1 46.6 -1.5 Contracting Faster 5
Supplier Deliveries 54.6 52.0 +2.6 Slowing Faster 2
Inventories 46.5 45.5 +1.0 Contracting Slower 7
Customers' Inventories 41.1 45.0 -3.9 Too Low Faster 39
Prices 51.7 46.7 +5.0 Increasing From Decreasing 1
Backlog of Orders 43.3 43.0 +0.3 Contracting Slower 8
New Export Orders 47.3 47.9 -0.6 Contracting Faster 2
Imports 48.8 48.3 +0.5 Contracting Slower 6
OVERALL ECONOMY Growing Slower 128
Manufacturing Sector Contracting Faster 5
Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business® data is seasonally adjusted for the New Orders, Production, Employment and Supplier Deliveries Indexes.
*Number of months moving in current direction.

Commodities reported up/down in price and in short supply

Commodities Up in Price

Aluminum Products; Copper Products; Scrap Metals; Steel — Hot Rolled (2); Steel — Stainless (3); Steel Products; and Valves.

Commodities Down in Price

Caustic Soda (3); Corrugate; High-Density Polyethylene; Freight (3); Natural Gas; Nickel; Polypropylene (2); and Steel (6).

Commodities in Short Supply

Aluminum Products; Machined Parts; and Titanium.

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


Manufacturing Index Summaries


PMI®

Manufacturing contracted in December, as the PMI® registered 47.2 percent, a decrease of 0.9 percentage point from the November reading of 48.1 percent. "The PMI® contracted for the fifth straight month, at faster levels compared to November. This marks nine straight months of softening or contraction in manufacturing. The sector's rate of contraction is the fastest since June 2009, when the PMI® registered 46.3 percent. All but two (Supplier Deliveries and Prices) of the manufacturing subindexes registered at levels associated with contraction. For the fourth straight month, two of the six big industries expanded, and four contracted," says Fiore. A reading above 50 percent indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding; below 50 percent indicates that it is generally contracting.

A PMI® above 42.9 percent, over a period of time, generally indicates an expansion of the overall economy. Therefore, the December PMI® indicates growth for the 128th consecutive month in the overall economy, and the fifth month of contraction in the manufacturing sector following 35 straight months of growth. "The past relationship between the PMI® and the overall economy indicates that the PMI® for December (47.2 percent) corresponds to a 1.3-percent increase in real gross domestic product (GDP) on an annualized basis," says Fiore.

The Last 12 Months

Month PMI®
Dec 2019 47.2
Nov 2019 48.1
Oct 2019 48.3
Sep 2019 47.8
Aug 2019 49.1
Jul 2019 51.2
Month PMI®
Jun 2019 51.7
May 2019 52.1
Apr 2019 52.8
Mar 2019 55.3
Feb 2019 54.2
Jan 2019 56.6
51.2
56.6
47.2

New Orders

ISM®'s New Orders Index registered 46.8 percent in December, a decrease of 0.4 percentage point when compared to the 47.2 percent reported for November. This indicates that new orders contracted for the fifth straight month, and at a faster rate. "Of the top six industry sectors, Transportation Equipment again had the fastest new orders contraction in December. For the second month, only one of the top six industry sectors expanded. The index had its lowest reading since April 2009, when it registered 46 percent," says Fiore. A New Orders Index above 52.5 percent, over time, is generally consistent with an increase in the Census Bureau's series on manufacturing orders (in constant 2000 dollars).

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, three reported growth in new orders in December: Textile Mills; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; and Miscellaneous Manufacturing. The 12 industries reporting a decline in new orders in December, in the following order, are: Wood Products; Furniture & Related Products; Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Printing & Related Support Activities; Transportation Equipment; Fabricated Metal Products; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Paper Products; Primary Metals; Computer & Electronic Products; Chemical Products; and Machinery.

New Orders % Higher % Same % Lower Net Index
Dec 2019 18.6 51.2 30.2 -11.6 46.8
Nov 2019 20.5 48.3 31.2 -10.7 47.2
Oct 2019 20.5 51.0 28.5 -8.0 49.1
Sep 2019 18.8 55.2 26.0 -7.2 47.3

Production

ISM®'s Production Index registered 43.2 percent in December, which is 5.9 percentage points lower than the 49.1 percent reported for November, indicating a fifth consecutive month of contraction. "The index had its lowest reading since April 2009, when it registered 36.7 percent. One of the six big industry sectors expanded, and five contracted," says Fiore. An index above 51.7 percent, over time, is generally consistent with an increase in the Federal Reserve Board's Industrial Production figures.

The three industries reporting growth in production during the month of December are: Miscellaneous Manufacturing; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; and Machinery. The 14 industries reporting a decrease in production in December — listed in order — are: Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Wood Products; Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Printing & Related Support Activities; Transportation Equipment; Textile Mills; Paper Products; Fabricated Metal Products; Petroleum & Coal Products; Chemical Products; Furniture & Related Products; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Primary Metals; and Computer & Electronic Products.

Production % Higher % Same % Lower Net Index
Dec 2019 15.8 49.8 34.4 -18.6 43.2
Nov 2019 20.3 56.3 23.4 -3.1 49.1
Oct 2019 20.8 49.5 29.7 -8.9 46.2
Sep 2019 20.3 52.5 27.2 -6.9 47.3

Employment

ISM®'s Employment Index registered 45.1 percent in December, a decrease of 1.5 percentage points compared to the November reading of 46.6 percent. "This is the fifth month of employment contraction, at a faster rate in December. One of the six big industry sectors expanded, and four contracted. The index had its lowest reading since January 2016, when it registered 44.6 percent," says Fiore. An Employment Index above 50.8 percent, over time, is generally consistent with an increase in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data on manufacturing employment.

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, two reported employment growth in December: Plastics & Rubber Products; and Computer & Electronic Products. The 11 industries reporting a decrease in employment in December, in the following order, are: Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Wood Products; Printing & Related Support Activities; Petroleum & Coal Products; Fabricated Metal Products; Textile Mills; Transportation Equipment; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Chemical Products; and Machinery.

Employment % Higher % Same % Lower Net Index
Dec 2019 11.5 63.7 24.8 -13.3 45.1
Nov 2019 13.9 64.9 21.2 -7.3 46.6
Oct 2019 16.3 62.3 21.4 -5.1 47.7
Sep 2019 14.6 62.3 23.0 -8.4 46.3

Supplier Deliveries

The delivery performance of suppliers to manufacturing organizations was slower in December, as the Supplier Deliveries Index registered 54.6 percent. This is 2.6 percentage points higher than the 52 percent reported for November. "Supplier deliveries continue to become more difficult, recording their strongest levels since February 2019, when the index registered 54.9 percent. The index expansion, coupled with price growth, is a positive indicator for Q1. However, supplier capacity remains at satisfactory levels to support current production output," says Fiore. A reading below 50 percent indicates faster deliveries, while a reading above 50 percent indicates slower deliveries.

The six industries reporting slower supplier deliveries in December — listed in order — are: Fabricated Metal Products; Textile Mills; Computer & Electronic Products; Machinery; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; and Chemical Products. The five industries reporting faster supplier deliveries in December are: Wood Products; Primary Metals; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Plastics & Rubber Products; and Transportation Equipment. Seven industries reported no change in supplier deliveries performance in December.

Supplier Deliveries % Slower % Same % Faster Net Index
Dec 2019 11.5 81.4 7.0 +4.5 54.6
Nov 2019 11.3 80.8 8.0 +3.3 52.0
Oct 2019 10.0 80.1 9.9 +0.1 49.5
Sep 2019 10.8 81.0 8.2 +2.6 51.1

Inventories*

The Inventories Index registered 46.5 percent in December, an increase of 1 percentage point from the 45.5 percent reported for November. "The index contracted for the seventh straight month at a slower rate, as companies continued making an effort to match raw-material inputs with new-order receipts and backlog status," says Fiore. An Inventories Index greater than 44.3 percent, over time, is generally consistent with expansion in the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) figures on overall manufacturing inventories (in chained 2000 dollars).

The four industries reporting higher inventories in December are: Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; and Computer & Electronic Products. The 11 industries reporting a decrease in inventories in December — listed in order — are: Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Furniture & Related Products; Textile Mills; Printing & Related Support Activities; Paper Products; Plastics & Rubber Products; Fabricated Metal Products; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; Machinery; Transportation Equipment; and Chemical Products.

Inventories % Higher % Same % Lower Net Index
Dec 2019 17.5 58.1 24.4 -6.9 46.5
Nov 2019 15.4 60.2 24.4 -9.0 45.5
Oct 2019 19.8 58.1 22.1 -2.3 48.9
Sep 2019 16.3 61.3 22.5 -6.2 46.9

Customers' Inventories*

ISM®'s Customers' Inventories Index registered 41.1 percent in December, which is 3.9 percentage points lower than the 45 percent reported for November, indicating that customers' inventory levels were considered too low. "Customers' inventories are too low for the 39th consecutive month, declining deeper into `too low` territory for the second straight month, which is positive for Q1 factory output. The index had its lowest reading since February 2019, when it registered 39 percent," says Fiore.

The only industry that reported customers' inventories as too high during the month of December was Apparel, Leather & Allied Products. The 11 industries reporting customers' inventories as too low during December — listed in order — are: Wood Products; Fabricated Metal Products; Plastics & Rubber Products; Chemical Products; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Primary Metals; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Computer & Electronic Products; Transportation Equipment; Machinery; and Miscellaneous Manufacturing. Six industries reported no change in customer inventories in December.

Customers' Inventories % Reporting % Too High % About Right % Too Low Net Index
Dec 2019 79 8.8 64.7 26.5 -17.7 41.1
Nov 2019 76 9.7 70.6 19.7 -10.0 45.0
Oct 2019 79 15.4 64.7 19.9 -4.5 47.8
Sep 2019 77 12.8 65.4 21.9 -9.1 45.5

Prices*

The ISM® Prices Index registered 51.7 percent in December, an increase of 5 percentage points from the November reading of 46.7 percent, indicating raw materials prices increased after six consecutive months of decreases. "Prices increased in December, supported by steel, copper and aluminum price growth, as manufacturers placed orders for 2020 demand. Prices registered their highest level since May 2019, when the index recorded 53.2 percent," says Fiore. A Prices Index above 52.5 percent, over time, is generally consistent with an increase in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Producer Price Index for Intermediate Materials.

The four industries reporting paying increased prices for raw materials in December are: Fabricated Metal Products; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Primary Metals; and Computer & Electronic Products. The eight industries reporting a decrease in prices for raw materials in December — listed in order — are: Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Plastics & Rubber Products; Textile Mills; Machinery; Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Paper Products; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; and Chemical Products. Six industries reported no change in prices in December.

Prices % Higher % Same % Lower Net Index
Dec 2019 16.5 70.5 13.0 +3.5 51.7
Nov 2019 14.6 64.2 21.3 -6.7 46.7
Oct 2019 15.7 59.6 24.7 -9.0 45.5
Sep 2019 16.4 66.5 17.1 -0.7 49.7

Backlog of Orders*

ISM®'s Backlog of Orders Index registered 43.3 percent in December, which is 0.3 percentage point higher than the 43 percent reported in November, indicating order backlogs contracted for the eighth consecutive month, at a slower rate in December. "Backlog contraction continues at a similar level as the prior month. The index remains in moderate contraction territory as a result of weak new-order performance. Three of the six big industry sectors' backlogs contracted during the period, up from four in November," says Fiore.

Three of the 18 industries reported growth in order backlogs in December: Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; and Computer & Electronic Products. Eleven industries reported lower order backlogs in December, in the following order: Wood Products; Textile Mills; Paper Products; Transportation Equipment; Furniture & Related Products; Fabricated Metal Products; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; Chemical Products; Plastics & Rubber Products; and Machinery.

Backlog of Orders* % Reporting % Higher % Same % Lower Net Index
Dec 2019 89 12.6 61.4 26.0 -13.4 43.3
Nov 2019 90 16.2 53.7 30.1 -13.9 43.0
Oct 2019 88 16.4 55.3 28.2 -11.8 44.1
Sep 2019 89 15.0 60.2 24.8 -9.8 45.1

New Export Orders*

ISM®'s New Export Orders Index registered 47.3 percent in December, a decrease of 0.6 percentage point compared to the November reading of 47.9 percent. This indicates that new export orders contracted for the fifth time in six months; October was the exception. "The index remains in contraction territory, which contributed negatively to the New Orders Index. One of the six big industry sectors expanded, and four contracted during the period. Transportation Equipment remains the weakest among the six big industries," says Fiore.

The two industries reporting growth in new export orders in December are: Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; and Miscellaneous Manufacturing. The nine industries reporting a decrease in new export orders in December — listed in order — are: Wood Products; Furniture & Related Products; Plastics & Rubber Products; Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Transportation Equipment; Machinery; Fabricated Metal Products; Chemical Products; and Computer & Electronic Products. Six industries reported no change in new export orders in December.

New Export Orders* % Reporting % Higher % Same % Lower Net Index
Dec 2019 79 11.3 72.2 16.6 -5.3 47.3
Nov 2019 77 11.0 73.9 15.1 -4.1 47.9
Oct 2019 76 18.1 64.7 17.2 +0.9 50.4
Sep 2019 77 6.3 69.6 24.2 -17.9 41.0

Imports*

ISM®'s Imports Index registered 48.8 percent in December, 0.5 percentage point higher when compared to the 48.3 percent reported for November, indicating that imports contracted for the sixth consecutive month. "Three of the six big industry sectors contracted, and two expanded. Respondents continued to note the need to receive material in advance of the Lunar New Year season in Asia. This dynamic is offset by the impacts associated with matching inventory and new-order inputs, as well as the overall effects of reshoring activity that began in 2019," says Fiore.

The six industries reporting growth in imports in December — listed in order — are: Wood Products; Printing & Related Support Activities; Computer & Electronic Products; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; and Machinery. The six industries reporting a decrease in imports in December — listed in order — are: Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Transportation Equipment; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Primary Metals; Fabricated Metal Products; and Chemical Products. Six industries reported no change in imports in December.

Imports % Reporting % Higher % Same % Lower Net Index
Dec 2019 85 13.3 71.0 15.7 -2.4 48.8
Nov 2019 82 10.3 76.1 13.6 -3.3 48.3
Oct 2019 80 6.6 77.3 16.1 -9.5 45.3
Sep 2019 81 14.0 68.3 17.8 -3.8 48.1
*The Inventories, Customers' Inventories, Prices, Backlog of Orders, New Export Orders and Imports Indexes do not meet the accepted criteria for seasonal adjustments.

Buying Policy

Average commitment lead time for Capital Expenditures increased by three days in December to 147 days. Average lead time for Production Materials increased by two days in December to 63 days. Average lead time for Maintenance, Repair and Operating (MRO) Supplies increased by six days in December to 37 days.

Percent Reporting

Capital Expenditures Hand-to-Mouth 30 Days 60 Days 90 Days 6 Months 1 Year + Average Days
Dec 2019 20 5 9 19 26 21 147
Nov 2019 20 6 11 16 27 20 144
Oct 2019 22 5 11 14 27 21 146
Sep 2019 22 5 9 16 26 22 148
Production Materials Hand-to-Mouth 30 Days 60 Days 90 Days 6 Months 1 Year + Average Days
Dec 2019 11 33 28 20 6 2 63
Nov 2019 12 36 28 16 6 2 61
Oct 2019 12 35 24 20 7 2 63
Sep 2019 11 33 30 18 6 2 63
MRO Supplies Hand-to-Mouth 30 Days 60 Days 90 Days 6 Months 1 Year + Average Days
Dec 2019 40 35 15 5 4 1 37
Nov 2019 41 36 16 4 3 0 31
Oct 2019 41 38 15 4 2 0 30
Sep 2019 40 35 17 6 2 0 32

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