With a reading of 52.6, the Gardner Business Index showed that the moldmaking industry expanded in September for the second month in a row and at a faster rate than in August. It reached its highest point since September 2014, continuing the strong uptrend that began in January of this year.
The new orders subindex grew at an accelerating rate for the second month in a row, reaching its highest level since February 2015. While there have been ups and downs, this subindex has trended up since October 2015. The production subindex also grew for the second month in a row, although its rate of growth was slower in September than in August. The backlog subindex was flat for the month, the first time it did not contract since November 2014. Employment has grown since March, however the rate of growth has been minimal the last three months. Exports also were flat in September, failing to contract for the first time since February 2015, while supplier deliveries lengthened for the third time in four months.
Material prices have increased since February at a rate similar to the second quarter of 2015, however that rate of increase is still well below those of 2013 and 2014. Prices received increased substantially for the first time since September 2015. The increase was so substantial, in fact, that this subindex reached its highest level since July 2012. Future business expectations in September were essentially unchanged from August, but the subindex has steadily improved since January.
Custom processors, or injection molders that in some cases make their own molds, grew for the third month in a row and the sixth time in seven months. Metalcutting job shops, which are likely strictly moldmakers and not plastic processors, expanded in September for the first time since July 2015.
A number of other industries besides moldmaking also expanded in September. Other manufacturing (essentially consumer goods) expanded at a very strong rate for the seventh time in eight months, and the medical industry also has grown at a strong rate since March. Electronics/computers/telecommunications also has been growing.
In the September survey, we changed how we asked about future capital spending plans. Respondents were given the option of selecting simply $0 for future spending plans, instead of a range of $0 to $125,000. For this reason, we cannot compare this month’s results to those of previous months.