Factory worker using a digital tablet near the production line. Photo: iStock
US Commerce Department figures show that some pandemic-hit sectors are bouncing back. Photo: iStock

The US manufacturing sector slowed again in September, falling to its lowest level since 2009, amid trade war worries, according to an industry survey released Tuesday.

It was the second month in a row manufacturing has contracted, continuing a slowing trend underway since March, according to data from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM).

ISM’s monthly manufacturing index fell to 47.8%, a sharp drop from 49.1% in August. Any reading below 50 indicates contraction.

“Global trade remains the most significant issue,” said Timothy Fiore, chair of ISM’s manufacturing survey. “Overall, sentiment this month remains cautious regarding near-term growth.”

The decline was a surprise to economists who forecast a slight uptick last month following the decline in August.

However, “Comments from the panel reflect a continuing decrease in business confidence,” Fiore said in a statement.

Many of the comments from survey participants cite President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, noting that the retaliatory tariffs are hurting business and undermining confidence, despite comments from officials claiming Americans have not been impacted by the dispute.

Fiore noted the contraction in new export orders that began in July, and the survey showed many components declined including production and employment, although prices increased.

One respondent from the electrical equipment sector summed it up: “Economy seems to be softening. The tariffs have caused much confusion in the industry.”


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