A closely watched measure of U.S. manufacturing rose in May for the first time in four months, suggesting the industry is beginning to stabilize at a depressed level after a pandemic-driven plunge.
The Institute for Supply Management said Monday that its gauge improved to 43.1 last month from an 11-year low of 41.5 in April. Readings below 50 indicate shrinking activity.
The purchasing managers group’s gauges of production and factory employment edged up from multi-decade lows, while an index of orders rose after the largest single-month slump since 1951.
While the data indicate producers are beginning to claw their way back as states begin reopening battered economies, weak export markets, record unemployment and lean capital spending budgets pose significant challenges.
The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for the ISM factory index to rise to 43.8 in May.
The supply managers group’s index of new orders increased to 31.8 from an April reading of 27.1. The production measure rose to 33.2 from 27.5.
The ISM’s gauge of factory inventories rose to a one-year high of 50.4, indicating slightly more elevated stockpiles that may limit production.
Meanwhile, the index of supplier deliveries fell for the first time since October, a sign that bottlenecks and transportation delays are finally beginning to ease.