Gardner Business Index: February 2017 — 55.7

The finishing industry expands for the second consecutive month, as the industry grew at its fastest rate since May 2012.


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With a reading of 55.7, the Gardner Business Index showed that the finishing industry expanded at an accelerating rate for the second month in a row. In February, the industry grew at its fastest rate since May 2012 and the index has shown consistent improvement since July 2016. 

New orders grew for the second straight month, although at a slower rate than last month. The same was true for production. The backlog index increased for the second month in a row and the trend indicated capacity utilization should increase in 2017. The employment index increased significantly in February, growing for the fourth month in a row. Exports continued to contract, but did so at a minimal rate in February. Supplier deliveries continued to lengthen.

After increasing at an accelerating rate in the fourth quarter of 2016, materials have increased at a decelerating rate in 2017. Prices received increased for the third month in a row and the rate of increase was consistent over the last three months. Future business expectations remained robust as the index was above 80 for the fourth month in a row. 

Growth in job shops has been noticeably strong the last four months. The forming/fabricating industry grew at an accelerating rate for the third month in a row. The automotive industry has had strong growth in four of the last five months and aerospace remained strong as the index grew for the fifth time in six months. 

The West was the fastest growing region in February, expanding for the first time since October 2016 and the second time since May 2016. The North Central-East experienced robust growth for the second month and was closely followed by the Northeast. The Southeast continued to perform very strongly. The North Central-West grew for the second month and the South Central region grew for the third month in a row, although its growth was more moderate than the other regions.

Plants with more than 250 employees expanded for the fourth time in five months and those with 100-249 employees grew at an accelerating rate for the third month in a row. Companies with 50-99 employees expanded for the sixth time in seven months and finishers with 20-49 employees had very robust growth for the second month. Finishers with fewer than 20 employees grew for the second month in a row.  



Originally published in the April 2017 issue.


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