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Manufacturing & The Economy

Led by Texas, U.S. Metro Areas Saw Job Growth in 2014

Final revised numbers for 2014, according to data prepared by Headlight, show that 322 out of 372 U.S. metro areas grew their employment base. Texas metros Midland, Longview, Dallas and Houston were among the Top 10 fastest-growing metros of 2014, led in part to a booming energy sector that has since slowed.

Two-thirds of U.S. metros increased their manufacturing job base in 2014. Merced, CA; Danville, IL and Flint, MI grew the fastest while Detroit, Dallas and San Jose created the most new manufacturing jobs.

Texas Manufacturing Conditions at Six-Year Low

Texas factory activity declined again in May, according to business executives responding to the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey. The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, fell to -13.5, its lowest reading in six years.

Other measures of current manufacturing activity reflected continued contraction in May. The new orders index held steady at -14.1, and the growth rate of orders index held steady at -15.2, marking the fifth and seventh negative reading in a row for these indexes. The capacity utilization index edged down to -11.6. The shipments index fell nearly 8 points to -13.2, with more than 30 percent of firms noting lower shipment volumes in May than in April.

Perceptions of broader business conditions worsened further this month. The general business activity index fell to -20.8 in May, its lowest reading since June 2009. The company outlook index moved down to -10.5, also hitting a low not seen since summer 2009. 

Durable Goods Orders Down 0.5% in April

New orders for manufactured durable goods in April decreased $1.2 billion or 0.5% to $235.5 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau announced Tuesday. This decrease, down two of the last three months, followed a 5.1% March increase. Excluding transportation, new orders increased 0.5%. Excluding defense, new orders increased 0.2%.

Shipments of manufactured durable goods in April, down three of the last four months, decreased $0.1 billion or 0.1% to $240.5 billion. This followed a 1.5% March increase.

Inventories of manufactured durable goods in April, up twenty-four of the last twenty-five months, increased $0.9 billion or 0.2% to $401.5 billion. 

The Future of 3D Printing and Manufacturing

Steve Heller, a contributor for The Motley Fool, recently interviewed Rich Stump, principal at FATHOM, a boutique 3D printing service provider and rapid manufacturer, about the future of manufacturing and 3D printing’s place in it.

“I don't like to paint the picture that 3D printing is going to change the way that all products are manufactured or designed. I like to paint the picture that 3D printing and additive manufacturing will have a significant impact on how we develop and design products in the future,” said Stump.

“We're going to continue to use traditional technologies like CNC machining, injection molding, and other traditional manufacturing technologies, but we're going to have this hybrid approach where the additive and 3D printing side can play a role to do something big, and to change the way that customer is developing a product, that can make a significant impact to how that product performs.” 

Leading Economic Indicators Rise 0.7% in April

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index (LEI) for the U.S. increased 0.7% in April to 122.3, following a 0.4% increase in March, and a 0.2% decline in February.

“April’s sharp increase in the LEI seems to have helped stabilize its slowing trend, suggesting the paltry economic growth in the first quarter may be temporary,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, economist at The Conference Board. “However, the growth of the LEI does not support a significant strengthening in the economic outlook at this time. The improvement in building permits helped to drive the index up this month, but gains in other components, in particular the financial indicators, have been somewhat more muted.”

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