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Local manufacturers keep growing during March, new survey finds

The good times are continuing for Buffalo Niagara manufacturers.

With production on  the upswing, more new orders flowing in and hiring on the rise, business at the region's manufacturers strengthened for the seventh straight month during March, a new survey of local purchasing managers found.

The improvement during March wasn't quite as robust as it was in February, but it still was further evidence of a turnaround at local manufacturers. The growth spurt, which began in September, has reversed a seven-month slide that began in February 2016 and stretched through August.

The improvement extended the growth streak by local manufacturers to a seventh straight month and coincided with a rebound in the statewide Empire State Manufacturing Survey, which is compiled each month by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and measures business activity at factories statewide.

"Another good month," said Jay K. Walker, the Niagara University economist who tracks local manufacturing activity for the Institute of Supply Management – Buffalo.  "Essentially every index had favorable results relative to the prior month, excepting continued commodity price increases."

The purchasing managers report is one of the most timely economic indicators, offering a glimpse at how the manufacturing sector performed during the previous month, but the local index also can be quite volatile month to month.

The survey of local purchasing managers showed that its business activity index remained solidly in growth territory, even as it cooled slightly to 56.3 in March, compared with 58.4 in February. The index hit a 14-month high of 69.9 in January.  Any time the index drops below 50, it’s a sign that the manufacturing economy is weakening. It's a sign of growth when it tops 50.

The March improvement was broad-based, with production rising sharply for the fifth straight month and both the pace of hiring and the flow of new orders increasing for the seventh consecutive month. Inventories shrunk for the fifth time in six months.

The one sobering note in the report was a continued rise in commodity prices.

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