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Economy in Brief

Chicago PMI Rises in December
by Sandy Batten  December 30, 2020

• Business activity index rises in December after falling to three-month low in November.

• Production, order backlogs, employment and inventories gain.

• New orders slide.

The Chicago Purchasing Managers Business Barometer rebounded to 59.5 in December after having fallen to a three-month low of 58.2 during November. A reading above 50 suggests rising activity in the Chicago area. The Action Economics Forecast had looked for a decline to 57.0. In Q4 as a whole, business sentiment recovered further to 59.6, the strongest reading since Q4 2018.

Haver Analytics constructs an ISM-Adjusted Chicago Business Barometer with similar methodology to the ISM Composite Index. This measure rose to 57.6 in December from 56.2 in November and remained well above the low of 40.2 reached this past June.

Among the five main indicators, Employment saw the largest monthly gain, followed by Order Backlogs. New Orders recorded the biggest decline.

Demand eased in December as New Orders slipped 2 points, while Production ticked up by 1.1 points as business activity picked up. On a quarterly basis, both New Orders and Production jumped to a two-year high, pushing the indices up to 61.0 and 61.6, respectively. Order Backlogs rose 3.6 points in December, the second consecutive advance. In Q4 the index rose to 52.3, lifting the indicator above the 50-mark for the first time since Q1 2019. Inventories jumped to a seven-month high in December, leaving the quarterly index at 47.6 in Q4.

Employment saw the largest climb in December, rising to a one-year high. Nevertheless, the indicator has now been in contraction territory since July 2019. Quarterly demand for labor increased to 45.3 in Q4. Delays in Supplier Deliveries remained elevated in December with companies continuing to note delivery delays due to issues with shipping and trucking.

On the inflation front, prices paid at the factory gate expanded 2.2 points, hitting the highest level since September 2018, with firms reporting higher prices for metals. In Q4, the index rose to 71.8, the highest level since Q3 2018.

The MNI Chicago Report is produced by MNI in partnership with ISM-Chicago. The survey is collected online each month from manufacturing and non-manufacturing firms in the Chicago area. Summary data are contained in Haver's USECON database with detail including the ISM-style index in the SURVEYS database.

Chicago Purchasing Managers Index (%, SA) Dec Nov Oct Dec '19 2020 2019 2018
General Business Barometer 59.5 58.2 61.1 48.2 49.0 51.3 62.4
ISM-Adjusted General Business Barometer 57.6 56.2 56.7 48.6 49.6 51.4 60.8
   Production 61.9 60.8 62.1 46.5 48.0 51.2 64.5
   New Orders 58.0 60.0 65.0 47.6 47.1 52.0 63.8
   Order Backlogs 55.0 51.4 50.5 44.8 42.7 46.9 58.0
   Inventories 49.4 45.7 47.7 46.1 44.8 48.7 55.4
   Employment 48.8 44.0 43.2 47.2 41.8 49.6 55.3
   Supplier Deliveries 69.7 70.3 65.3 55.4 66.4 55.6 64.8
   Prices Paid 76.6 74.4 64.6 58.1 59.6 58.5 73.9
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