The Census Bureau reported that new orders for manufactured goods fell 0.6 percent in April, its third decline for the four months of 2012. The decline was fairly widespread but was particularly acute among defense and nondurable goods industries. Durable goods orders were flat, with nondurables down 1.1 percent. Excluding defense goods, new orders would have declined by 0.2 percent. Core capital goods (e.g., nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft) fell 2.1 percent, building on the 2.3 percent loss in March.
Some sectors did better than others, though. The strongest gains in April for new orders occurred in some of the machinery subsectors (e.g., construction, mining), nondefense equipment and aircraft, electrical equipment and household products, and primary metals industries.
Looking at shipments, the data were slightly more positive, but still weak overall. Shipments of manufactured goods dropped 0.3 percent in April, with durable goods up 0.6 percent. Nondurable goods and core capital goods were 1.1 percent and 1.5 percent lower, respectively. In addition to the sectors named above, automobiles and light trucks fared well in April, with higher shipment levels. Food, beverages, leather products, and plastics saw improvements among durable goods, with petroleum shipments down.
Overall, this data – like much of what was released last week – continues to show weaknesses in the manufacturing sector.
Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.