Finishing Industry Returns to High-Speed Expansion

September’s Finishing Index reading exceeds two of the last three peaks.


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Registering 56.0, the Gardner Business Index (GBI): Finishing expanded at an even faster rate in September than during either of the cyclical highs experienced in 2014 and 2017. The September reading was supported by supplier deliveries, production, employment and new orders. The index, calculated as an average of all its components, was pulled lower by backlogs and exports, although exports was the only index component that contracted.

Certain multi-month trends have come into focus through the year-to-date period. Supplier deliveries have been the fastest expanding component of the index since May. Between May and the end of September, the Finishing Index, like many other Gardner Business indices, experienced slower growth in production while supplier deliveries continued to grow unabated. The latest data now show a resumption of higher production growth. This may indicate that manufacturers’ production levels, including those in the finishing industry, are now benefiting from supply chain adjustments over the last five months.

September marked the fourth consecutive month in which exports have contracted and the component’s sharpest contraction in more than a year.  Despite this weakness, total new orders growth continues to expand strongly. The combination of weak exports but strong new orders and growing backlog suggests that domestic demand for finished products is more than offsetting any weakness resulting from international factors.