March 2024 Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey

March 2024 Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey

Note: Survey responses were collected March 11-18.

Manufacturing activity in the region continued to expand overall, according to companies that responded to the March report. Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey. The survey's overall activity indicator dipped slightly but remained positive, while the shipments index increased and the new orders index turned positive. The employment index remained negative, which continues to suggest a decline in overall employment levels. Both price indices fell and remained below their long-term averages. Indicators of future activity rose, suggesting broader expectations for overall growth over the next six months.

Current indicators remain below long-term averages

The current general activity diffusion index fell two points to 3.2 in March, its second consecutive positive reading (see Chart 1). This is only the fifth positive index reading since May 2022. Nearly 24 percent of businesses reported increases in overall activity this month, while 21 percent reported decreases; 52 percent reported no change. The new orders index turned positive for the first time since October, going from -5.2 in February to 5.4 in March. The current shipments index rose 1 point to 11.4 in March, its highest reading since August 2022.

As a whole, companies continued to record a decline in employment. The employment index rose 1 point to -9.6 in March, its 11th negative reading in the last 13 months. Most companies (80 percent) continued to report no change in employment, while the proportion of companies reporting decreases (14 percent) exceeded the proportion reporting increases (4 percent). The average workweek index fell from 1.4 to -0.2.

Price indices fall

Most companies reported no price changes and both price indices remained below their long-term averages; However, as a whole, companies reported overall price increases. The prices paid index fell 13 points to 3.7 in March, its lowest reading since May 2020 (see Chart 2). Nearly 14 percent of companies reported increases in input prices (up from 21 percent last month), while 10 percent reported decreases (up from 4 percent); 75 percent reported no change (up from 70 percent). The index of current prices received decreased 2 points to 4.6. Nearly 12 percent of companies reported increases in prices for their own products, 7 percent reported decreases, and 81 percent reported no changes.

Indices of Current Prices Paid and Prices Received

Companies report higher production, little change in capacity utilization

in this month special questions, companies were asked to estimate their total production growth for the first quarter ending this month compared to the fourth quarter of 2023. A higher proportion of companies reported an increase in production (41 percent) compared to the proportion reporting a decrease (27 percent). ). Looking at companies' capacity utilization for the current quarter and a year ago, the reported median current capacity utilization rate among responding companies remained unchanged at 70 to 80 percent.

Most companies reported that labor supply was at least a slight constraint on capacity utilization in the current quarter, and the proportion of companies reporting it as a moderate or significant constraint (38 percent) increased slightly since this question was asked in December (35 percent). . Just over half of companies reported that supply chains were not a constraint at all in the current quarter, a similar proportion to the previous quarter. Looking ahead to the next three months, most companies expect the impacts of various factors to remain the same. However, the proportion of companies expecting labor supply impacts to improve (12 percent) was lower than when this question was asked in December (20 percent).

Future indicators increase

The Future General Activity Diffusion Index jumped from a reading of 7.2 in February to 38.6 in March, its highest reading since July 2021 (see Chart 1). Half of companies expect an increase in activity over the next six months, surpassing the 11 percent who expect a decrease; 34 percent do not expect any change. The future new orders index rose 26 points to 49.9, and the future shipments index rose 17 points to 43.6. On the whole, businesses expect employment to rise over the next six months, and the future employment index rose from a reading of 4.9 to 5.8. The future prices paid index fell to 38.0, while the future prices received index rose 7 points to 37.1. The future capital expenditure index rose 11 points to 23.6, its highest reading since March 2022.

Summary

Responses to the march Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey suggest an overall increase in regional manufacturing activity this month. The current activity indicator fell but remained positive. The shipment rate rose slightly and the new order rate turned positive. On the whole, businesses continued to report declining employment, and current price indices suggest general, but less widespread, price increases. The survey's overall indicators of future activity strengthened, suggesting more widespread expectations for growth over the next six months.

Special Questions (March 2024)

1. How will your company's total production for the first quarter of 2024 compare to that of the fourth quarter of 2023?

An increase of: % of companies Subtotals
10% or more 2.9 % of companies reporting an increase: 41.1
5-10% 20.6
0-5% 17.6
No change 32.4
A decrease in:
0-5% 5.9 % of companies reporting a decrease: 26.5
5-10% 11.8
10% or more 8.8

2. Which of the following best characterizes your plant's capacity utilization percentage currently (2024:Q1) and one year ago (2023:Q1)?

Capacity utilization rate 2024: first quarter
% of reporters
2023: first quarter
% of reporters
less than 30% 0.0 3.0
30-40% 6.1 0.0
40-50% 0.0 6.1
50-60% 6.1 9.1
60-70% 21.2 24.2
70-80% 33.3 24.2
80-90% 27.3 12.1
90-100% 6.1 21.2
Median utilization rate 70-80 70-80

3. In the current quarter, to what extent have the following factors acted as constraints on capacity utilization?

You are welcome
(%)

slightly
(%)
Moderately
(%)
significantly
(%)
COVID-19 mitigation measures 94.1 5.9 0.0 0.0
Energy markets 97.1 2.9 0.0 0.0
Financial capital 88.2 5.9 5.9 0.0

Job offer

41.2 20.6 20.6 17.6
Supply chains 51.5 33.3 15.2 0.0
Other factors 73.9 4.3 4.3 17.4

4. Over the next three months, how do you expect the impacts of the following factors as constraints on capacity utilization to change?

Worsen
(%)

still the same
(%)

Improve
(%)

COVID-19 mitigation measures 0.0 87.9 12.1
Energy markets 3.0 97.0 0.0

Financial capital

5.9 88.2 5.9

Job offer

8.8 79.4 11.8
Supply chains 0.0 91.2 8.8
Other factors 0.0 87.5 12.5

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