U.S. and Global Factory Output Picks Up, but Jobs Picture is Mixed

U.S. factory output continued to grow in August, according to a pair of surveys released Tuesday, but the picture for employment was mixed, a possible sign of lingering uncertainty about the coronavirus pandemic among American manufacturers.

Sluggish employment, if sustained, could pose a threat to the recovery just as the economy is starting to pick up following several months of pandemic-related lockdowns. Other manufacturing powerhouses such as China and Germany also saw continued contraction in factory employment.

A survey of purchasing managers in manufacturing compiled by the Institute for Supply Management found that U.S. factory output grew in August at the fastest pace since November 2018, driven by a surge of new demand and faster export orders. An index of output posted a reading of 56 in August, up from 54.2 in July, ISM said.

But firms continued to cut employment, reflecting a wariness about future prospects and health concerns that have prompted employers to try to put more space between each worker on production lines.

A separate survey published by data firm IHS Markit , however, found employment in U.S. factories growing at the fastest pace since November 2019 while overall output grew at the fastest pace since January of last year. The firm said its U.S. manufacturing index posted 53.1 in August, up from 50.9 in July.



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