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Manufacturing activity soars in January to highest point since 2004

February 1, 2010 | 10:14 am


The U.S. manufacturing sector seems to be on the rebound, hitting its strongest point since 2004, according to a report released Monday.

The industry grew for the sixth straight month in January, hitting 58.4 on an index from the Institute for Supply Management. Anything above a level of 50 represents expansion; factories reached a high of 58.5 in August 2004 and 54.9 in December.

The data signifies “significant assurance that the manufacturing sector is in recovery,” according to the group, which also found that the overall economy had improved for the ninth consecutive month.

Of 18 industries, 13 said they were expanding, including apparel and machinery. Last month, just nine reported growth.

New orders reached their highest level since 2004 after escalating for seven straight months, soaring to 65.9 in January from 64.8 in December.

Current production also grew, up to 66.2 from 59.7, while order backlogs hit 56 after settling at 50 in December. Employment and production also saw increases, as did exports and imports.

But after a 10-month decline, customers’ stockpiles plunged to an all-time low of 32.

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: The Curtis Bottle Brewer is tested on July 29 on the factory floor of the Wilbur Curtis Co., a food service and beverage equipment manufacturer in Montebello. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times