Economic Data and Growth


Manufacturing Job Openings Decline 

The number of U.S. job openings in manufacturing decreased in March, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Meanwhile, the number of job openings in the larger economy remained about the same, at approximately 8.5 million.

What’s going on: There were 570,000 open positions in the U.S. manufacturing industry in March, down from an adjusted 587,000 in February.

  • Open positions in durable goods manufacturing also declined, to 353,000 in March from an adjusted 379,000 in February.
  • Openings in nondurable goods, however, inched up to 217,000 from an adjusted 208,000.

Hires and quits: Hiring in the sector remained about the same as the last reading, coming in at 323,000 in March (down marginally from February’s 324,000).

  • Total separations—which include quits, layoffs, discharges and other severance of employment—decreased slightly in March (to 330,000) from February (an adjusted 338,000).
Input Stories

Inflation Stayed Elevated in March

Inflation, as measured by the Federal Reserve’s preferred gauge, remained elevated last month (CNN).

What’s going on: “The Personal Consumption Expenditures price index … accelerated to 2.7% for the year ended in March. … That rate was above economists’ expectations for a 2.6% gain and landed above February’s reading of 2.5%.”

  • Prices increased 0.3% on a monthly basis, the same pace as in February.

Core PCE: So-called “core” PCE, which excludes often-volatile food and energy prices, remained steady at 2.8%.

Spending: Consumer spending stayed strong in March, rising 0.8% from February and exceeding economists’ expectations.

Input Stories

West Coast Ports See Cargo Growth

Two major U.S. West Coast ports saw continued cargo growth in March, coinciding with supply chain fallout from the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore (Los Angeles Daily News).

What’s going on: The Port of Los Angeles “processed 743,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs, the industry’s standard measurement for cargo units) last month—up 19% from March 2023. It was the port’s eighth-consecutive month of year-over-year growth.”

  • The Port of Long Beach last month moved 654,082 TEUs, a cargo increase of 8.3% from March 2023. Its imports rose 8.4% compared to last year.
  • The ports anticipate April—traditionally “slack season” for the entry points—being “another busy month,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said.

Why it’s important: The growth is reflective of “resilient consumer spending, [which] is key to our nation’s growth,” Seroka continued. “U.S. economic indicators remain positive even with some uncertainty regarding interest rates and the latest inflation data.”

Shoring up systems: The Port of Los Angeles is working to ensure the safety of its systems following the March 26 Key Bridge collapse and an executive order by President Biden that increases cybersecurity regulations at all U.S. ports.

Input Stories

Durable Goods Orders Rise

New orders for durable goods in the U.S. increased more than expected last month (Business Insider and U.S. Census Bureau). Shipments were virtually unchanged.

What’s going on: Orders for manufactured durable goods rose 2.6% in March, to $283.4 billion.

  • The rise followed a downwardly revised 0.7% increase in February.
  • Shipments of durable goods slipped slightly, down $0.1 billion, but remained essentially flat at $282.4 billion following a 1.2% increase in February.

The details: Excluding transportation, new orders increased 0.2%, and excluding defense, new orders rose 2.3%.

  • Transportation equipment drove the slight decrease in shipments of durable goods.

Inventories and unfilled orders: Stocks of manufactured durable goods were nearly unchanged at $527.9 billion, a decrease of less than $0.1 billion from February. This follows seven consecutive monthly increases.

  • Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods rose 0.4% in March to $1,397.2 billion, following a decrease in February.
Input Stories

Manufacturing Output Slows

Manufacturing output slowed in April, according to index provider S&P Global.

What’s going on: While overall business activity continued to grow this month—albeit at a slower pace—manufacturing growth eased.

  • S&P Global’s Flash US Manufacturing PMI came in at 49.9, a four-month low and down from March’s 51.9.
  • Any number below 50 indicates contraction.

Why it’s happening: The decline in orders can be linked “to inflationary pressures, weak demand and sufficient stock holdings at customers.”

However … Employment in manufacturing in April rose modestly.

What it means: “[T]he drivers of inflation have changed,” said S&P Global Market Intelligence Chief Business Economist Chris Williamson. “Manufacturing has now registered the steeper rate of price increases in three of the past four months, with
factory cost pressures intensifying in April amid higher raw material and fuel prices.”

Input Stories

Home Sales Decline

Sales of previously owned homes in the U.S. declined in March, CNN reports.

Whats going on: “Existing home sales, which make up the majority of the housing market, fell 4.3% in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.19 million, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday.”

  • The median price for a previously owned home last month was $393,500, an increase of 4.8% from March 2023, which was the highest on record.
  • The only region of the country to see an increase in existing home sales last month was the Northeast.

Why its happening: Higher list prices combined with still-elevated mortgage rates continue to make home purchasing difficult for Americans.

What it means: “Though rebounding from cyclical lows, home sales are stuck because interest rates have not made any major moves,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

  • However, “[t]here are nearly six million more jobs now compared to pre-Covid highs, which suggests more aspiring homebuyers exist in the market.”
Input Stories

U.S. Industrial Production Rises

U.S. industrial production increased modestly in March, in keeping with economist forecasts, according to baha.

What’s going on: “Industrial production in the United States rose by 0.4% in March after increasing 0.1% in the previous month, the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors stated in its report published on Tuesday.”

The details: Manufacturing output increased 0.5% on a monthly basis and 0.8% on an annual basis. It rose 1.2% in February.

  • Mining declined 1.4% in March and 2.0% year on year.
  • The utilities index grew 2.0% for the month but declined 3.1% year on year.

Capacity utilization: Capacity utilization—a measure of potential output—for the industrial sector as a whole increased to 78.4%, up from 78.2% in February but “1.2 percentage points below its long-run average.”

What it means: These data are among “signs that manufacturing is starting to pick up,” MarketWatch (subscription) reports.

  • “The S&P Global U.S. Manufacturing PMI has been in expansion territory for the past three months, and the ISM factory index was 50.3 in March, the first reading above the break-even level of 50 since September 2022.”
Input Stories

Producer Prices Increase Less Than Expected

Prices paid by businesses to goods and services producers in the U.S. rose by slightly less than anticipated in March, according to

What’s going on: “The producer price index for final demand rose 0.2% last month, after rising by 0.6% in February, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said. Economists had expected the PPI to gain 0.3%. In the 12 months through January, the PPI increased 2.1%, below the 2.2% expected, after climbing 1.6% in February.”

  • “Core” PPI, which excludes food and energy prices, rose 0.2% on the month, for an annual increase of 2.4%.
  • The data comes just a day after the release of a higher-than-anticipated consumer price index for last month.

The details: Services inflation stayed elevated, with a gain of 0.3% in prices in March, Barron’s reports.

  • Goods prices, however, edged down 0.1%.
  • A 1.6% decline in energy prices made up much of March’s overall decrease and outweighed a 0.8% increase in food prices.

Why it’s important: The news may mean an interest-rate cut from the Federal Reserve will come later than previously thought.

Input Stories

Consumer Prices Increased in March

Prices paid by consumers for goods and services rose last month, according to CNBC.

What’s going on: The consumer price index, “a broad measure of goods and services costs across the economy, rose 0.4% for the month, putting the 12-month inflation rate at 3.5%. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for a 0.3% gain and a 3.4% year-over-year level.”

  • March’s seasonally adjusted CPI increase was the same as February’s.

Core CPI: Core CPI, which excludes often volatile food and energy costs, also increased 0.4% on a monthly basis.

  • Core CPI for March was 3.8% higher than it was in March 2023.

Why it’s important: CPI is the most widely used measure of inflation, and these data “indicat[e] that inflation is staying stubbornly higher and likely keeping the Federal Reserve on hold with interest rates.”

Policy and Legal

Previewing the State of the Union

With President Biden set to deliver the State of the Union address Thursday, manufacturing is likely to be in the spotlight once again. At the NAM, we will be listening closely for our key priorities—those that have been achieved and those still in progress. 

Promises kept: President Biden has been a partner on a range of issues that are key to manufacturers across the United States. We hope he will outline how pro-growth legislation has helped set the stage for manufacturing growth, with industry employment reaching a 15-year high.

  • CHIPS Act: The CHIPS and Science Act marked a major push to boost manufacturers’ competitiveness, supporting large and small businesses up and down the supply chain by investing in domestic semiconductor production and funding programs to support the STEM workforce, advanced technology development, excavation of critical minerals, clean energy and more.
  • Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill: President Biden secured a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, a long-sought, major achievement for manufacturers throughout the country, offering transformational upgrades and significant investments in America’s manufacturing capabilities.
  • Inflation Reduction Act: Some of the provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act supported manufacturers across the United States, with direct investments and tax credits generating a major increase in manufacturing construction and jobs.
  • Ukraine: The Biden administration has been unwavering in its support of Ukraine. The NAM—which in March 2022 passed a unanimous resolution denouncing Russia’s invasion of the country—has kept the pressure on Congress to pass the stalled Ukraine aid bill.

Progress to come: But this progress will be undermined if the Biden administration continues to issue onerous regulations and call for policies that make it harder to innovate, invest and expand in America. The NAM is working hard to push back against items that would harm manufacturers and encourage the president to refrain from pursuing policies that will make us less competitive.

  • Taxes: The NAM is pushing back against any new taxes or attempts to increase tax rates on manufacturers, and we are pressing for tax policies that will make it easier to invest in the future—including the “tax trifecta” found in the recently House-passed Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act. The NAM urges the Senate to approve these business tax provisions quickly.
  • Protecting intellectual property: Late last year the administration proposed invoking “march-in” rights to seize the patents of any products it deems too costly—if those innovations were developed in any part with federal dollars. This move, which would open the door to similar actions in other sectors of manufacturing, would undermine manufacturers’ IP rights, disincentivize early-stage entrepreneurship and dissuade capital investment, all of which could jeopardize our ability to develop future cures. This is just one example of how actions that undermine manufacturers’ IP can have dangerous unintended consequences.
  • Regulations: Burdensome rules—such as the tighter National Ambient Air Quality Standards from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy’s recent freeze of liquefied natural gas export permits—are preventing manufacturers from creating jobs and harming U.S. competitiveness. We need to end the regulatory onslaught and give manufacturers the chance to grow.
  • Energy: Manufacturers in America are at the forefront of the planet’s work to reduce emissions and promote sustainable energy. But to be effective, we need to embrace an all-of-the-above energy strategy that uses the fuel we have while developing the tools we need.
  • Immigration: Immigration and border security reforms must be a priority for the administration and Congress. Inaction poses significant economic risks—especially at a time when manufacturers have 600,000 open jobs. Manufacturers are leading on bipartisan solutions, like those found in our A Way Forward plan.

The last word: “Our commitment is to work with anyone, and I truly mean anyone, who will put policy—policy that supports people—ahead of politics, personality or process,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “Because here’s what I know: Manufacturers are building an incredible future for our country and our world. And we need partners in the federal government who will work with us to reduce burdens on manufacturers and manufacturing workers, rather than creating barriers to our success.”

Learn more: For more information on the state of manufacturing, check out the 2024 NAM State of Manufacturing Address here.

View More