The U.S. manufacturing sector is taking small steps, not dramatic leaps, on the road to economic recovery. That is the message in the quarterly Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI Analysis of Selected Industrial Indicators, a report that analyzes 28 major industries covered by the Bureau of the Census.
First-quarter 2002 figures show that eight of the 28 industries had inflation-adjusted new orders or production above the level of one year ago. That is marginally better than the six that experienced positive growth in the previous report, but still leaves 20 of the 28 industries below 2001 levels. Twelve of these 20 industries, however, have passed through the worst part of the economic cycle and are "less negative" than three months ago.
"Manufacturing took the brunt of the 2001 recession," said Daniel Meckstroth, Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI economist and analysis author, "and a few month-to-month increases in production or orders are not enough to boost most industries back to where they were one year ago."
Of the eight industries recording improvement, three had double-digit growth: defense capital goods, public construction and motor vehicles and parts.
Industries whose current business activity fell more than 20% in the first quarter versus their levels one year ago included material handling equipment, generators and power transmission equipment.