US manufacturing Activity

US Manufacturing Activity Expands for First Time After 16 Months of Slump

Production surged by 6.2 points, marking the most substantial increase since mid-2020. Output growth, at 54.6, reached its highest level since June 2022.
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The latest report from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) has brought a wave of optimism for the U.S. manufacturing activity.

After a long streak of contraction, factory activity unexpectedly expanded in March 2024. This development marks the first instance of growth since September 2022.

The PMI rose to 50.3, up from 47.8 in February. An index above 50 indicates expansion. There was a sharp rebound in production, with the output gauge reaching its highest level since June 2022. The new orders index also returned to positive territory, signaling increased demand. While employment in the sector is still shrinking, the rate of decline slowed down in March.

The ISM’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) climbed to 50.3, just above the crucial threshold of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

The March index surpassed all expectations, showcasing a notable rebound in production and demand.

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Production and Demand Surge:

One of the standout features of the March report is the significant rebound in both production and demand. Production surged by 6.2 points, marking the most substantial increase since mid-2020. Output growth, at 54.6, reached its highest level since June 2022. This surge in production underscores a robust response from manufacturers to increasing demand.

The report also highlights a return to expansion territory for new orders after contracting in February. This resurgence in demand is a positive sign for the manufacturing sector, indicating resilience in consumer demand and business investment.

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Image Credits: Bloomberg

Industry Insights:

The ISM report provides insights into various industries within the manufacturing sector:

  • Textile Mills, Nonmetallic Minerals, Paper Products, and Petroleum: These industries reported growth in March, reflecting a diverse range of sectors experiencing positive momentum.
  • Furniture, Plastics and Rubber Products, Electrical Equipment: Conversely, some sectors experienced contraction, suggesting ongoing challenges in specific segments.

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Optimism and Outlook:

Manufacturing executives expressed optimism about the sector’s outlook. The report indicates firmer orders growth, suggesting that companies are aligning inventory levels with sales effectively. Despite challenges, such as rising input costs, there is a prevailing sense of confidence regarding future prospects.

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Quoted Insights:

The quotes provided by industry representatives offer a glimpse into the sentiment and expectations across various sectors:

  • Chemical Products: Expectations of continued strength in demand and robust order pipelines.
  • Transportation Equipment: Anticipation of increased orders and production, with efforts to drive down costs to improve margins.
  • Computer & Electronic Products: Optimism regarding future orders, with expectations of a strong second quarter.
  • Machinery: Notable selectiveness among suppliers regarding orders, indicating potential shifts in market dynamics.
  • Fabricated Metals: Positive outlook with strong business activity and exceeding forecasts.
  • Primary Metals: Expectations of improvement in the second half of the year, driven by anticipated increases in order activity.
  • Wood Products: Anticipation of better business in the coming quarters, with reports of increasing second-quarter bookings.


The March 2024 ISM report paints a picture of a manufacturing sector in recovery, with signs of increasing production and demand.

While challenges such as rising input costs persist, the overall sentiment among industry executives is one of cautious optimism.

The resilience displayed by manufacturers, coupled with expectations of future growth, bodes well for the sector’s trajectory in the coming months.

As the U.S. manufacturing sector navigates through uncertainties, the March report serves as a beacon of hope, indicating a potential turnaround after months of contraction.

With concerted efforts to address challenges and capitalize on opportunities, the sector stands poised for a period of sustained growth and prosperity.

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