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US Textile Mills See Uptick in New Orders in March

The Made in America movement appears to be picking up momentum, according to Markit Economics’ latest U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Mangers’ Index (PMI), but the apparel industry is not reaping the rewards.

Data published Friday found that a faster uptick in new business and sustained growth of employment figures, as well as a steadying of new export orders, corresponded to a quiet increase in U.S. manufacturing in March.

Markit said PMI inched up to 51.5, only slightly above February’s 51.3, but better than the earlier “flash” reading of 51.4. A reading above 50 indicates an overall increase in activity.

However, while manufacturers noted that “generally improving global economic conditions” had helped to counteract some of the strong dollar’s negative impact on exports, production volumes were low and backlogs of work fell again, extending the current period of decline to four out of the past five months.

The report, based on data collected from more than 600 U.S. companies, also underlined a drop in input costs for the seventh straight month, citing the impact of lower commodity prices.

“March’s survey highlights sustained weakness across the U.S. manufacturing sector, meaning that overall growth through the first quarter slowed to its lowest since late 2012. Subdued client spending patterns within the energy sector, ongoing pressure from the strong dollar and general uncertainty about the business outlook were cited as factors weighing on new order flows in March,” Tim Moore, senior economist at Markit, stated.

The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) national report, also released Friday, put last month’s PMI at 51.8 (up from February’s negative reading of 49.5), but emphasized ongoing challenges in apparel.

Bradley Holcomb, who oversees the ISM survey, said that new orders and increased production meant the U.S. manufacturing sector registered overall growth in March for the first time since last August. While textile mills reported new orders rose last month, the same could not be said for the apparel, leather and allied products industry which recorded a drop, in addition to declining levels of production and employment.