U.S. manufacturing reflected growth for the seventh consecutive month in March, according to the latest poll of supply chain executives by the Institute for Supply Management.
Last month's report showed a Purchasing Managers' Index of 57.2 percent, which exceeded the 50 percent threshold indicating growth for the seventh consecutive month.
Although the index was 0.5 percentage points below the previous month’s levels — which snapped a six-month streak of accelerating growth — ISM analysts said that February and March were the first consecutive periods at 57 percent or higher in years.
"It's just about the same," said ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee chairman Bradley Holcomb. "A half a point in this environment is just noise level in terms of ups and downs.”
The survey also showed that the indexes for new orders and production remained strong at 64.5 percent and 57.6 percent, but each slid by 0.6 percentage points and 5.3 percentage points, respectively.
The employment index, meanwhile, hit its highest level in nearly six years after increasing 4.7 percentage points to 58.9 percent.
Holcomb said that the employment increase suggested that production was “not able to keep up” last month.
Poll respondents also indicated that raw material inventories contracted for the third time in four months and that customer inventories were again considered too low for the sixth month in a row.
Order backlogs increased modestly last month, and the prices index eclipsed 70 percent after a 13th consecutive month of growth. The March level of 70.5 percent was the highest since May 2011.
“It’s certainly something that we’re watching,” Holcomb said of the continued rising prices.
The PMI translated to growth in the overall economy for the 94th consecutive month.