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Region’s manufacturing growth loses steam

The five-month growth spurt by local manufacturers lost a little steam during July.

Local manufacturers said their businesses grew in July at the slowest pace since March as growth slowed in both production and the flow of new orders, according to a survey of purchasing managers in the Buffalo Niagara region.

“It was another positive month,” said Jay K. Walker, the Niagara University economist who compiles the monthly business activity report for the National Association of Purchasing Management-Buffalo. While the survey showed that the expansion by local manufacturers that began in March remained in place during July, the pace of that growth slowed.

“The overall index was in expansionary territory, but eased a little from June,” Walker said.

The group’s business activity index slipped to 57 during July – down from the eight-month high of 64.2 in June – leaving the index still comfortably above the tipping point of 50 – the dividing line between a growing and contracting manufacturing sector – for the 15th time in the last 17 months.

The survey showed growth in nearly all of the categories, but a slowing rate of expansion in most of them.

The rate of growth cooled in production and new orders to their slowest levels since March, while prices rose faster and inventories shrank. Employment grew at a fairly stable pace.

The flow of new orders remained solid, extending an expansion that began in July 2013. Slightly less than half of the companies surveyed said they booked more orders last month, down from 60 percent in June, while more than a third said their bookings were lower in July.

Production also grew at a slower pace, with roughly 4 in 9 managers surveyed saying that output increased at their factories, down from half in June.

The pace of hiring, which had been a weak spot throughout the fall and winter, grew for the fourth time in the last five months, with slightly more than a quarter of the managers surveyed reporting that their companies hired more workers last month, up from 20 percent in June.

Inventories shrank for the first time since February, while commodity prices rose at their fastest pace since May.