Buffalo Niagara manufacturers had a holiday slump.
A new report, based on a survey of local purchasing managers, indicated that business at the region’s factories kept growing last month, although it cooled a bit with production and new orders declining as overall growth slipped to its most sluggish pace in 14 months.
“There are concerning signals," said Randy Cragun, the Niagara University economist who compiles the monthly report on local manufacturing activity for the Institute of Supply Management – Buffalo.
The group’s business activity index fell to 55.9 in December from 62.1 in November. The index, which can swing wildly from month to month, had reached a 20-year high in October, only to see the pace of growth slow during each of the following two months.
An index above 50 indicates growth at local factories, while a reading below that is a sign of weakness. The local index has been above 50, indicating factory growth, for 16 straight months.
Much of the slowdown in growth was due to a drop in both production and new orders. Production fell for the first time since October 2016, while the flow of new orders had its first down month since August 2016.
On a brighter note, hiring rose for the 15th straight month, while commodity prices rose at a slightly slower pace during December. Inventories grew for the ninth straight month.