Business was a bit better for local manufacturers during August.
After growing more slowly during July, local manufacturers said their businesses expanded at a slightly faster pace last month, extending the growth streak at the Buffalo Niagara region’s manufacturers to six months, according to a survey of purchasing managers in the Buffalo Niagara region.
While much of the increase came from improvement in staffing levels at local factories and efforts to rebuild inventories that had dwindled during July, the report also showed continued growth in production and the flow of new orders to the region’s manufacturers.
“We continued along in positive territory in August,” said Jay K. Walker, the Niagara University economist who compiles the monthly business activity report for the National Association of Purchasing Management – Buffalo. “Generally speaking, the increases were less large than in recent months, but still favorable.”
The group’s business activity index rebounded to 59.1 in August after slipping to 57 during July. While the index remains below the eight-month high of 64.2 it hit in June, it still is comfortably above the tipping point of 50 – the dividing line between a growing and contracting manufacturing sector – for the 16th time in the last 18 months.
Some of the strongest gains last month came from a better employment picture at local factories. While the gains didn’t come from a pickup in hiring – slightly fewer firms added workers last month than they did during July – none of the manufacturers surveyed cut jobs during August, which was an improvement from July, when just under 20 percent of the manufacturers surveyed reduced staffing.
Inventory expansion also fueled the modest uptick in growth, with a third of the firms adding to their stockpiles last month, up from just 18 percent in July.
The flow of new orders remained solid, extending an expansion that began in July 2013, but grew at their slowest pace since March. Slightly less than half of the companies surveyed said they booked more orders last month, about the same as in July, while the number of firms with fewer bookings rose to 44 percent last month from a little more than a third in July.
Production also grew at a slower pace for the third straight month, with a third of the managers surveyed saying that output increased at their factories, down from 45 percent in July.
Commodity prices continued to rise, but at a slightly slower pace than during July.