Last updateThu, 23 May 2019 6pm


Small Business Optimism Stabilizes in February

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index improved modestly, increasing 0.5 points to 101.7, even with the potential negative impact of the government shutdown on government workers but also on government contractors who laid off workers as well. Two Index components fell, three were unchanged, and five improved. Views about future business conditions and the current period as a good time to expand improved as did plans to make capital outlays.

Manufacturing Production Down Second Straight Month

Industrial production edged up 0.1% in February after decreasing 0.4% in January. The index for utilities rose 3.7%, while the index for mining moved up 0.3%. At 109.7% of its 2012 average, total industrial production was 3.5% higher in February than it was a year earlier.

Manufacturing output decreased 0.4% in February after falling 0.5% in January. In February, the index stood 1.0% above its year-earlier level. The output of durables edged down. 

Durable Goods Orders Up 0.4% in January

New orders for manufactured durable goods in January increased $0.9 billion or 0.4% to $255.3 billion, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced. This increase, up three consecutive months, followed a 1.3% December increase. Excluding transportation, new orders decreased 0.1%. Excluding defense, new orders increased 0.7%.

Manufacturing Technology Orders Up Big in January

U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders (USMTO) for January totaled $396 million, marking the second strongest January in the history of the USMTO program. Orders declined 10.5% from December, but at half the average decline in January over December levels since 1998. January 2019 orders grew 5% over January 2018 – an indicator of continued expansion in the market into 2019 after an annual expansion of 19% in 2018.

“January was one of the top two starts to a year in over 22 years of USMTO reporting, signaling that the current expansion is not over,” said Douglas K. Woods, President of The Association For Manufacturing Technology (AMT). “However, the markets in Asia and Europe began contracting in the last third of 2018 which is likely to increase supply in the U.S. The silver lining is that global markets should rebound about the time the U.S. market is expected to begin a short-lived contraction.”

Manufacturing Labor Productivity Up 2% Last Quarter

Manufacturing sector labor productivity increased 2.0% in the fourth quarter of 2018, as output increased 2.7% and hours worked rose 0.8%. Productivity increased 3.3% in the durable manufacturing sector in the fourth quarter of 2018. Over the last four quarters, total manufacturing sector productivity increased 1.0%, as output increased 2.9% and hours worked increased 1.9%. Unit labor costs in manufacturing increased 2.2% in the fourth quarter of 2018 and rose 0.8% from the same quarter a year ago. 

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