Growth in the U.S. factory sector fell after a 37-year high last month as manufacturers struggled to meet strong demand amid parts shortages and rising commodity prices.
The Institute for Supply Management said on Monday that its index measuring manufacturing activity fell to 60.7 from 64.7 in March, which was the highest growth rate since December 1983.
Economists were looking for an acceleration in growth in April, estimating that the ISM index would rise to 65.
A shortage of semiconductors and other parts has wreaked havoc on supply chains, hampering manufacturers’ ability to meet demand as vaccinations and falling coronavirus cases fuel a rebound in the US economy.
Factories have also faced increased prices for a range of materials. The index tracking prices paid by manufacturers in the ISM survey jumped four points to 89.6, its highest level since July 2008.
Timothy Fiore, chairman of the ISM Manufacturing Company Inquiry Committee, said members of the group “reported that their companies and suppliers continue to struggle to meet increasing rates of demand due to the impacts of the coronavirus ( Covid-19) limiting the availability of parts and materials “.
“Recent record delays, large-scale shortages of essential raw materials, rising raw material prices and difficulties in transporting products continue to affect all segments of the manufacturing economy,” he said. .
Temporary production stoppages due to parts shortages, worker absenteeism and difficulties filling vacancies have also limited the sector’s growth potential, according to Fiore.
However, business optimism improved during the month as demand remained high, hires increased for a fifth consecutive month and order books continued to grow to record levels.
Oxford Economics analysts said “the details underlying the report remain generally encouraging.”
“Manufacturing remains resilient and factories won’t run out of gas once demand shifts more to services and away from goods. Going forward, restocking, increasing capital investment, fiscal stimulus and reviving global growth will support dynamic manufacturing activity, ”they added.