The September Business Conditions report, released by the Precision Metalformers Association, or PMA, shows that 24% of participants anticipate that economic activity will improve during the next three months--up from 23% in August. Meanwhile, 51% predict that activity will remain unchanged, up from 46% last month, and 25% report that activity will decline, compared to 31% in August.

Metalforming companies also expect a slight increase in incoming orders during the next three months, with 32% anticipating an increase in orders, compared to 29% in August; 37% forecasting no change--down from 40% last month--and 31% predicting a decrease in orders, the same percentage reported in August.

The PMA report also showed wverage daily shipping levels improved modestly in September, with 22 percent of participants reporting that shipping levels are above levels of three months ago--up from 17% in August. At the same time, 38% report that shipping levels are the same as three months ago, compared to 43% in August, and 40% report a decrease in shipping levels.

“After several months of flat or modestly negative expectations for new orders and shipments, PMA’s manufacturing member companies have moved to a slightly more positive outlook as Q-3 draws to a close,” said William E. Gaskin, PMA president. “During the first four or five months of 2012, the average metalforming company reported that orders and shipments, year-over-year, were growing at the rate of approximately 10% and 12%, respectively, compared to 2011."  

One area of concern: The percentage of metalforming companies with a portion of their workforce on short time or layoff increased to 15% in September, up from 13% in August. The September figure is higher than it was one year ago when only 12% of metalformers reported workers on short time or layoff. According to Gaskin, a
modest contraction in orders and shipments during the summer was seen across many sectors, with the exception of automotive. This, in turn,  reduced growth to approximately 8% year-over-year.

"With significant economic uncertainty being exacerbated by the upcoming presidential election, it is expected that the balance of 2012 will continue to show single-digit growth compared to 2011, as we look ahead to Q-4," Gaskin noted. 

The full September PMA Business Conditions Report is available online.