US manufacturing orders plow ahead in March

US demand for metal cutting, forming, and fabrication technology rose 11% from February and is up 13% year-to-date, with "no downturn in sight" say the AMT and USMTO.

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McLean, VA -- US demand for metal cutting, forming, and fabrication technology rose 11% from February and is up 13% year-to-date, with "no downturn in sight," according to data from the Association For Manufacturing Technology (AMT).

Companies participating in the AMT's United States Manufacturing Technology Orders (USMTO) program reported $495.97 million in US manufacturing technology orders, up 11.3% from February 2012, but down -1.4% from the same month a year ago. Last month the AMT/USMTO said US manufacturing technology demand was at a 14-year high.

Through the first three months of the year, orders continue to show strength in the US manufacturing sector -- up 12.9% from the first three months of 2011 ($1.36 billion vs. $1.20 billion). Note in the graphic below the three-month moving average is trending down, though, that metric should improve as monthly numbers stay healthy.

"Manufacturing is expanding with no clear signal of a downturn in sight," said AMT president Douglas K. Woods. The sector added 34,000 jobs during March, capacity utilization is just shy of 80%, and order growth "confounds experts," he said in a statement -- though he also acknowledged challenges in future manufacturing investment including "a lack of access to credit, global supply issues, encroaching industry regulations and taxes, and overall political uncertainty."

The South was once again the fastest-growing region in March, rising 34% to $71.24 million in month/month orders; that growth was matched by the Northeast region which rebounded from a decline in February to post $71.80 million in orders. Also showing double-digit growth were the Central ($149.39 million, 13.9%) and West regions ($51.15 million, 23.3%). The largest region, the Midwest, dipped 8% to $152.39 million.

(By the way ... experts might be flummoxed, but Industrial Laser Solutions has been tracking and praising the US manufacturing sector's health for some time now, following a record year in 2011 that was difficult for many other industries.)

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Total US manufacturing technology orders through March 2012. (Source: USMTO)

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