Buffalo Niagara manufacturers had a strong finish in December to an otherwise down year at local factories.
The region's manufacturers finished 2016 with four straight months of growth, including the biggest increase in 18 months during December, after struggling for most of the year, a new survey of local purchasing managers found.
"We had an overall strong month to close 2016," said Jay K. Walker, the Niagara University economist who tracks local manufacturing activity for the Institute of Supply Management – Buffalo.
The December gain was further evidence of a turnaround at local manufacturers, reversing a seven-month slide that began in February and stretched through August. The improvement coincided with a rebound in the statewide Empire State Manufacturing Survey, which last month hit its highest level since April.
While Walker said he has concerns about the possibilities that President-elect Donald Trump might roll back free trade agreements in a move that would hurt exports, he also noted that the overall economy finished the year strong.
The latest survey of local purchasing managers showed that business among local manufacturers grew at its fastest pace last month since July 2015, with the group’s business activity index rising to 58.9 from 58.1 in November. Any time the index drops below 50, it’s a sign that the manufacturing economy is weakening, while it's a sign of growth when it tops 50.
The December improvement was broad-based, with production rising for the second straight month and the flow of new orders increasing for the fourth consecutive month to its highest level since April 2015. The pace of hiring improved for the fourth straight month and hit a 13-month high.
On the downside, commodity prices jumped, while inventories shrunk for the 16th time in the last 17 months.