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U.S. Factories Start Spring Solidly—Mostly

Wall Street Journal (05/01/15) Kathleen Madigan

U.S. factories began the spring with more production and orders, but indications of declining employment put a damper on the labor market. The Institute for Supply Management said its index of manufacturing activity stood at 51.5 in April, unchanged from March. Prior to April’s flat reading, the overall factory index had fallen for five consecutive months, signalling slower expansion. A reading under 50 signifies contracting activity. Meanwhile, the ISM’s employment index fell to 48.3 last month from 50.0 in March, reaching a level not seen since 2009.

Still, “with the exception of employment, the subcomponents look upbeat for manufacturing,” says Bradley J. Holcomb, who oversees the ISM’s factory survey. Furthermore, the end of the West Coast port slowdown means manufacturers can ship their products more easily.