Index: Milwaukee area manufacturing takes a downturn in April
Waukesha County companies remain optimistic

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

May 4, 2015

WAUKESHA - A report out Thursday from Marquette University indicated manufacturing in the Milwaukee area slid into negative territory in April, but Waukesha County Business Alliance President Suzanne Kelley remains optimistic about manufacturing locally. 

“We’re seeing strong hiring and capital investments by many of our manufacturing members,” she said Thursday.

According to the ISM Report on Manufacturing prepared by Marquette University’s Center for Supply Chain Management, the April index for manufacturing in the Milwaukee area was a seasonally adjusted 48.08, a decline of 5 points from 53.25 in March. The index was 50.32 in February. An index level below 50 indicates manufacturing has moved into negative territory. According to the report, including April’s reported numbers, the index has been above 50 for 17 of the past 20 months.

Survey respondents said while new orders have been coming in recently, customers have wanted their products right away, which is not always possible due to the products needing to be custom made and parts need to be purchased to complete the order.  Others responded that sales have been lagging and a lack of “viable suppliers with superior customer service,” according to the report.

In April, new orders were growing at 57.42, compared to 54.42 in March, according to the report. Other areas of growth included employment at 52.62 compared to 46.14 and imports at 54.17 compared to 54.55. All other areas were declining, such as production at 45.13 in April compared to 52.72 in March; inventories at 46.67 in April compared to 52.94 in March; and exports at 40.91 in April contrasted with 45.83 in March.

Some other concerns raised by survey respondents included unplanned customer order pullouts, orders coming in strong but not having an effect on production for several weeks and backlogs rising due to the increase in orders.

In Waukesha County, Kelley said, manufacturers remain upbeat.

“Manufacturing continues to be an engine of economic growth for Waukesha County and our region, and the majority of our manufacturers are optimistic about the upcoming months,” she said.

A report released Thursday by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, indicated manufacturing job growth has barely registered during the past 12 months in the Milwaukee area and was up 0.1 percent in March. Hours and earnings indicators for production workers were mixed and the length of a production worker’s workweek fell 0.2 percent to 41.1 hours, according to the MMAC.

Average hourly earnings did increase in March by 2.9 percent to $19.38, while average weekly earnings went up 2.7 percent to $797, according to the report. Both measures ranked above consumer price change nationally over the same time period.