U.S. manufacturing records highest level of factory activity for nine months

February 1, 2013
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The U.S. economy has continued it’s run of good form, with companies adding more jobs and the manufacturing industry recording its highest level of factory activity for nine months, recent market reports reveal.

According to Reuters, U.S. companies added 157,000 jobs in January, while revised figures for November and December showed that 127,000 more positions were created than previously reported. Although the U.S. Labor Department has indicated that the unemployment rate rose slightly to 7.9 percent, industry analysts were able to confirm that hourly earnings increased, while there were “solid gains” in both construction and retail employment in the last month.

“All the data seems to keep pointing to a slowly, steadily improving economy,” noted Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at North Star Investment Management Corporation in Chicago, according to the BBC.

U.S. manufacturers, already aware that the industry is going through somewhat of a revival, were also able to report that orders continued to rise from domestic and overseas markets, with the Institute of Supply Management revealing that its index of national factory activity rose to 53.1, the highest level since April 2012. The only cloud on the horizon was that manufacturing employment remained essentially flat, with companies preferring to continue their strategy of lean enterprise for at least the first few months of the year.

“It is clear that the economy has a forward momentum,” commented Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State University. “Most pistons in the economic engine are firing, pointing to sustained economic growth.”

For U.S. manufacturing, mainstays of the industry such as automobile manufacturers were credited with its continued growth with both General Motors and Ford reporting better-than-expected sales in January. The increase in home sales, a continued commitment to quality management in manufacturing and the recent upturn in construction projects were also seen as positive influences on the sector, with the recent contraction of gross domestic product considered by some analysts to be nothing more than “a fluke.”

In a separate report issued by financial data firm Markit, manufacturing figures were also seen to be in a healthy state. According to the BBC, its purchasing managers index rose to 55.8 on January, increasing from 54 in December, with any number over 50 considered to be a sign of expansion in the industry.

“The survey suggests the underlying health of the industrial sector continues to improve, and rising production will help the economy return to growth in the first quarter, provided there are no setbacks in coming months,” said a spokesman for Markit to the news source.