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FOR RELEASE: April 3, 2020

Contact:   Kristina Cahill
Report On Business® Analyst
ISM®, ROB/Research Manager
Tempe, Arizona
480-752-6276, Ext. 3015
E-mail: kcahill@instituteforsupplymanagement.org

 


March 2020 Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®

NMI® at 52.5%


Business Activity Index at 48.0%
New Orders Index at 52.9%
Employment Index at 47.0%
Supplier Deliveries Index at 62.1%

(Tempe, Arizona) — Economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector grew in March for the 122nd consecutive month, say the nation's purchasing and supply executives in the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business.®

The report was issued today by Anthony Nieves, CPSM, C.P.M., A.P.P., CFPM, Chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Non-Manufacturing Business Survey Committee: “The NMI® registered 52.5 percent, 4.8 percentage points lower than the February reading of 57.3 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector, at a slower rate. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index decreased to 48 percent, 9.8 percentage points lower than the February reading of 57.8 percent, reflecting contraction for the first time since July 2009, when the index registered 47.2 percent. The New Orders Index registered 52.9 percent, 10.2 percentage points below the reading of 63.1 percent in February. The Employment Index decreased 8.6 percentage points to 47 percent from the February reading of 55.6 percent.

“The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 62.1 percent, up 9.7 percentage points from the February reading of 52.4 percent, and limited the decrease in the composite NMI®. The Supplier Deliveries Index is one of four equally weighted subindexes that directly factor into the NMI®, along with Business Activity, New Orders and Employment. Supplier Deliveries is the only ISM® Report On Business® index that is inversed; a reading of above 50 percent indicates slower deliveries, which is typical as the economy improves and customer demand increases. However, the high percentage-point increase in March — the largest monthly change since an 18.5-point decrease in September 1997 — was primarily a product of supply problems related to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“The Prices Index of 50 percent is 0.8 percentage point lower than the February reading of 50.8 percent, indicating that prices were unchanged in March. According to the NMI®, nine non-manufacturing industries reported growth. The non-manufacturing sector composite index indicates growth in March; however, the extreme slowing of supplier deliveries weighted heavily in the calculation. The other three subindexes that contribute to the NMI® contracted strongly in March. Respondents are concerned about the coronavirus impact on the supply chain, operational capacity, human resources and finances, as well as the ramifications for the overall economy.”

INDUSTRY PERFORMANCE

The nine non-manufacturing industries reporting growth in March — listed in order — are: Health Care & Social Assistance; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Public Administration; Utilities; Finance & Insurance; Construction; Management of Companies & Support Services; Wholesale Trade; and Information. The seven industries reporting a decrease in March — listed in order — are: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Transportation & Warehousing; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Mining; Other Services; Retail Trade; and Educational Services.

WHAT RESPONDENTS ARE SAYING
  • “Significant shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), chemical reagents, test swabs and other basic medical supplies persist. Extreme sourcing measures are required to procure necessary supplies for basic operations. Distributor allocations continue across the board.” (Health Care & Social Assistance)
  • “Severe impact to operations as a result of COVID-19. Major challenges in obtaining needed supplies for first responders, including N95 masks, gowns, disinfecting products and medical supplies. As a local government, we are experiencing a significant increase in activity due to emergency-response efforts. Starting to experience inappropriate price increases for short-supply items.” (Public Administration)
  • “Significant demand disruption caused by the coronavirus.” (Accommodation & Food Services)
  • “The coronavirus is having an impact, but not as much as we thought it would at this point. All sectors are staying busy. Although there are many customer concerns, we are finding work-arounds and adapting to the ever-changing situation.” (Construction)
  • “COVID-19 shelter-in-place order in effect. Offices closed except for essential personnel.” (Educational Services)
  • “Like most businesses, we cannot fully project how the coronavirus will impact us. By displaying prudence and avoiding panic, we are trying to navigate this crisis. As human capital is our greatest expense, protecting that capital is job one. Supply chains are overstressed and will normalize only when the panic subsides.” (Information)
  • “COVID-19 has greatly impacted daily operations. All staff personnel are telecommuting, and customer concerns have shifted from normal activities to preventative measures.” (Management of Companies & Support Services)
  • “We are experiencing no real issues from a business perspective, although COVID-19 has forced us to reconsider elements of how our workforce gets things done.” (Mining)
  • “As expected for many industries (whether manufacturing or non-manufacturing), purchasing has slowed as we evaluate the economic climate and prepare for long-term effects.” (Retail Trade)
  • “The coronavirus is effecting every aspect of business.” (Real Estate, Rental & Leasing)

ISM® NON-MANUFACTURING SURVEY RESULTS AT A GLANCE COMPARISON OF ISM® NON-MANUFACTURING AND ISM® MANUFACTURING SURVEYS*
March 2020

 Non-ManufacturingManufacturing
IndexSeries Index MarSeries Index FebPercent Point ChangeDirectionRate of ChangeTrend** (Months)Series Index MarSeries Index FebPercent Point Change
NMI®/ PMI® 52.5 57.3 -4.8 Growing Slower 122 49.1 50.1 -1.0
Business Activity/ Production 48.0 57.8 -9.8 Contracting From Growing 1 47.7 50.3 -2.6
New Orders 52.9 63.1 -10.2 Growing Slower 128 42.2 49.8 -7.6
Employment 47.0 55.6 -8.6 Contracting From Growing 1 43.8 46.9 -3.1
Supplier Deliveries 62.1 52.4 +9.7 Slowing Faster 10 65.0 57.3 +7.7
Inventories 41.5 53.9 -12.4 Contracting From Growing 1 46.9 46.5 +0.4
Prices 50.0 50.8 -0.8 Unchanged From Increasing 1 37.4 45.9 -8.5
Backlog of Orders 55.0 53.2 +1.8 Growing Faster 2 45.9 50.3 -4.4
New Export Orders 45.9 55.6 -9.7 Contracting From Growing 1 46.6 51.2 -4.6
Imports 40.2 52.6 -12.4 Contracting From Growing 1 42.1 42.6 -0.5
Inventory Sentiment 47.8 59.3 -11.5 Too Low From Too High 1 N/A N/A N/A
Customers' Inventories N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 43.4 41.8 +1.6
Overall Economy Growing Slower 128
Non-Manufacturing Sector Growing Slower 122
*Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business® data is seasonally adjusted for the Business Activity, New Orders, Prices and Employment indexes. Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business® data is seasonally adjusted for New Orders, Production, Employment and Inventory indexes. **Number of months moving in current direction.

Commodities reported up/down in price and in short supply


Commodities Up in Price

Cleaning Products; Gloves; Hand Sanitizer; Labor (3); Lumber; Medical Supplies (2); Oriented Strand Board (OSB); Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (2); PPE — Masks; and Surgical Gowns.

 

Commodities Down in Price

Diesel Fuel (3); Fuel; Gasoline (2); and Steel Products.

 

Commodities in Short Supply

Cleaning Products; Cleaning Supplies; Construction Contractors (5); Construction Subcontractors (27); Disinfectants; Hand Sanitizer; Labor — Temporary (9); Medical Supplies (2); N-95 Respirators; Paper Products; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (2); PPE — Coveralls; PPE — Masks; Surgical Masks (2); and Toilet Paper.

Note: The number of consecutive months the commodity is listed is indicated after each item.


MARCH 2020 Non-Manufacturing Index Summaries


In March, the NMI® registered 52.5 percent, 4.8 percentage points lower than February’s figure of 57.3 percent and the lowest reading since August 2016, when the index was at 52.3 percent. The non-manufacturing sector grew for the 122nd consecutive month. A reading above 50 percent indicates the non-manufacturing sector economy is generally expanding; below 50 percent indicates the non-manufacturing sector is generally contracting.

An NMI® above 48.5 percent, over time, generally indicates an expansion of the overall economy. Therefore, the March NMI® indicates growth for the 128th consecutive month in the overall economy and expansion in the non-manufacturing sector for the 122nd consecutive month. Nieves says, “The past relationship between the NMI® and the overall economy indicates that the NMI® for March (52.5 percent) corresponds to a 1.4-percent increase in real gross domestic product (GDP) on an annualized basis.”

NMI® History

MonthNMI®
Mar 2020 52.5
Feb 2020 57.3
Jan 2020 55.5
Dec 2019 54.9
Nov 2019 53.9
Oct 2019 54.4
MonthNMI®
Sep 2019 53.5
Aug 2019 56.0
Jul 2019 54.8
Jun 2019 55.4
May 2019 56.3
Apr 2019 55.7
55.0
57.3
52.5

Business Activity

ISM®’s Business Activity Index registered 48 percent in March, a decrease of 9.8 percentage points from the February reading of 57.8 percent. This represents contraction after 127 consecutive months of growth. This is the lowest reading since July 2009, when the index registered 47.2 percent. Five industries reported increased business activity. Comments from respondents include: “Postponing major events and cutting travel” and “Reducing operations to essential services only.”

The five industries reporting growth of business activity in March are: Health Care & Social Assistance; Accommodation & Food Services; Construction; Public Administration; and Finance & Insurance. The nine industries reporting a decrease in business activity for the month of March — listed in order — are: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Mining; Other Services; Educational Services; Retail Trade; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Transportation & Warehousing; Wholesale Trade; and Information.

Business Activity% Higher% Same% LowerIndex
Mar 2020 26.3 43.1 30.6 48.0
Feb 2020 34.0 56.7 9.2 57.8
Jan 2020 29.7 53.0 17.3 60.9
Dec 2019 27 52 21 57.0

ISM®’s Non-Manufacturing New Orders Index registered 52.9 percent, a decrease of 10.2 percentage points from the February reading of 63.1 percent. New orders expanded for the 128th consecutive month. Comments from respondents include: “The uncertainty has put all new business processes on hold” and “New orders are significantly lower due to COVID-19, [but] spending for financial/tax projects remains slightly higher due to tax season.”

The five industries reporting growth of new orders in March are: Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Health Care & Social Assistance; Accommodation & Food Services; Public Administration; and Construction. The nine industries reporting contraction in March — listed in order — are: Other Services; Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Retail Trade; Educational Services; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Wholesale Trade; Mining; Management of Companies & Support Services; and Information.

New Orders% Higher% Same% LowerIndex
Mar 2020 30.4 45.6 23.9 52.9
Feb 2020 39.6 52.3 8.0 63.1
Jan 2020 26.2 51.2 22.7 56.2
Dec 2019 25 55 20 55.3

Employment activity in the non-manufacturing sector contracted in March after 72 consecutive months of growth. ISM®’s Non-Manufacturing Employment Index registered 47 percent, down 8.6 percentage points from the February reading of 55.6 percent. This is the lowest reading since February 2010, when the index registered 46.7 percent. Two industries reported increased employment, and 10 industries reported decreased employment. Comments from respondents include: “Layoffs due to virus and decrease in revenue” and “Most employees have been asked to telecommute; there is a hiring freeze until everyone returns to the office.”

The two industries reporting an increase in employment in March are: Finance & Insurance; and Health Care & Social Assistance. The 10 industries reporting a reduction in employment in March — listed in order — are: Transportation & Warehousing; Accommodation & Food Services; Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Construction; Mining; Other Services; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Educational Services; Utilities; and Information. Six industries reported no change in employment in March compared to February.

Employment% Higher% Same% LowerIndex
Mar 2020 8.9 76.3 14.7 47.0
Feb 2020 20.2 67.5 12.3 55.6
Jan 2020 16.9 69.4 13.7 53.1
Dec 2019 21 67 12 54.8

Supplier Deliveries

The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 62.1 percent, which is 9.7 percentage points higher than the 52.4 percent reported in February. This is the highest reading since August 1997, when the index registered 71.5 percent. A reading above 50 percent indicates slower deliveries, while a reading below 50 percent indicates faster deliveries. Comments from respondents include: “Supplier capacity and shipping has been slowed due to the coronavirus” and “Global supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19 concerns and the number of manufacturers reliant upon China for raw materials, parts and components.”

The 14 industries reporting slower deliveries in March — listed in order — are: Other Services; Educational Services; Health Care & Social Assistance; Utilities; Wholesale Trade; Management of Companies & Support Services; Public Administration; Retail Trade; Mining; Transportation & Warehousing; Information; Construction; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; and Finance & Insurance. No industry reported faster deliveries in March.

Supplier Deliveries% Slower% Same% FasterIndex
Mar 2020 31.3 61.6 7.1 62.1
Feb 2020 10.4 84.0 5.6 52.4
Jan 2020 11.3 80.9 7.8 51.7
Dec 2019 9 87 4 52.5

The Inventory Index contracted in March, registering 41.5 percent, a 12.4-percentage point decrease from the 53.9 percent reported in February. Of the total respondents in March, 44.1 percent indicated they do not have inventories or do not measure them. Comments from respondents include: “Inventories negatively impacted by finished goods from China” and “Trying to get as much as we can to get us through the coronavirus.”

The five industries reporting an increase in inventories in March are: Accommodation & Food Services; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Health Care & Social Assistance; Finance & Insurance; and Utilities. The 11 industries reporting a decrease in inventories in March — listed in order — are: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Transportation & Warehousing; Mining; Information; Educational Services; Retail Trade; Wholesale Trade; Other Services; Management of Companies & Support Services; and Construction.

Inventories% Higher% Same% LowerIndex
Mar 2020 20.2 42.8 37.1 41.5
Feb 2020 21.6 64.6 13.8 53.9
Jan 2020 19.8 53.5 26.8 46.5
Dec 2019 22 58 20 51.0

Prices paid by non-manufacturing organizations for materials and services remained unchanged in March, with the index registering 50 percent. This is 0.8 percentage point lower than the 50.8 that was reported in February.

The six non-manufacturing industries that reported an increase in prices paid during the month of March — listed in order — are: Health Care & Social Assistance; Finance & Insurance; Public Administration; Construction; Other Services; and Utilities. The six industries that reported a decrease in prices in March — listed in order — are: Accommodation & Food Services; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Mining; Transportation & Warehousing; and Wholesale Trade. Six industries reported no change in prices in March.

Prices% Higher% Same% LowerIndex
Mar 2020 18.0 67.9 14.1 50.0
Feb 2020 11.1 80.4 8.5 50.8
Jan 2020 15.6 79.7 4.7 55.5
Dec 2019 16 79 5 59.3
NOTE: Commodities reported as up in price and down in price are listed in the commodities section of this report.

Backlog of Orders

ISM®’s Non-Manufacturing Backlog of Orders Index grew in March for the second consecutive month. The index registered 55 percent, 1.8 percentage points higher than the 53.2 percent reported in February. This is the highest reading since June 2019 (56 percent). Of the total respondents in March, 42.9 percent indicated they do not measure backlog of orders.

The six industries reporting an increase in order backlogs in March — listed in order — are: Health Care & Social Assistance; Retail Trade; Transportation & Warehousing; Public Administration; Management of Companies & Support Services; and Wholesale Trade. The seven industries that reported a decrease in backlogs in March — listed in order — are: Accommodation & Food Services; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Other Services; Mining; Construction; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; and Utilities.

Backlog of Orders% Higher% Same% LowerIndex
Mar 2020 22.5 65.1 12.4 55.0
Feb 2020 21.0 64.3 14.7 53.2
Jan 2020 12.7 65.7 21.7 45.5
Dec 2019 11 73 16 47.5

New Export Orders

Orders and requests for services and other non-manufacturing activities to be provided outside of the U.S. by domestically based companies contracted in March. The New Export Orders Index registered 45.9 percent in March, which is 9.7 percentage points lower than the 55.6 percent reported in February. This is the lowest reading since January 2016, when the index registered 45.5 percent. Of the total respondents in March, 73 percent indicated they either do not perform, or do not separately measure, orders for work outside of the U.S.

The three industries reporting an increase in new export orders in March are: Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Health Care & Social Assistance; and Finance & Insurance. The 10 industries that reported a decrease in exports in March — listed in order — are: Utilities; Educational Services; Accommodation & Food Services; Other Services; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Management of Companies & Support Services; Mining; Transportation & Warehousing; Wholesale Trade; and Information.

New Export Orders% Higher% Same% LowerIndex
Mar 2020 7.8 76.3 15.9 45.9
Feb 2020 21.1 69.0 9.9 55.6
Jan 2020 8.4 83.4 8.2 50.1
Dec 2019 10 82 8 51.0

The Imports Index contracted for the fifth time in the past seven months, as the index registered 40.2 percent in March, 12.4 percentage points lower than February’s figure of 52.6 percent. This is the lowest reading since March 2009 (37 percent). Sixty-seven percent of respondents reported that they do not use, or do not track the use of, imported materials.

The three industries reporting an increase in imports for the month of March are: Utilities; Educational Services; and Management of Companies & Support Services. The nine industries that reported a decrease in imports in March — listed in order — are: Accommodation & Food Services; Mining; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Other Services; Construction; Wholesale Trade; Information; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; and Retail Trade. Six industries reported no change in imports in March as compared to February.

Imports% Higher% Same% LowerIndex
Mar 2020 5.2 69.9 24.9 40.2
Feb 2020 13.0 79.0 7.9 52.6
Jan 2020 17.2 75.8 7.0 55.1
Dec 2019 11 74 15 48.0

Inventory Sentiment

The ISM® Non-Manufacturing Inventory Sentiment Index in March registered 47.8 percent, which is 11.5 percentage points lower than the 59.3-percent reading in February and ends 272 consecutive months of expansion. This indicates that respondents believe their inventories are too low. The below-50 reading is the first for this subindex since the debut of the Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business® in 1997.

The five industries reporting sentiment that their inventories were too high in March are: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Finance & Insurance; Wholesale Trade; Mining; and Utilities. The eight industries reporting a feeling that their inventories were too low in March — listed in order — are: Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Transportation & Warehousing; Public Administration; Educational Services; Health Care & Social Assistance; Management of Companies & Support Services; Construction; and Information.

Inventory Sentiment% Too High% About Right% Too LowIndex
Mar 2020 18.0 59.6 22.4 47.8
Feb 2020 23.2 72.1 4.7 59.3
Jan 2020 14.4 80.9 4.7 54.9
Dec 2019 25 70 5 60.0

About This Report

DO NOT CONFUSE THIS NATIONAL REPORT with the various regional purchasing reports released across the country. The national report's information reflects the entire U.S., while the regional reports contain primarily regional data from their local vicinities. Also, the information in the regional reports is not used in calculating the results of the national report. The information compiled in this report is for the month of March 2020.

The data presented herein is obtained from a survey of non-manufacturing supply executives based on information they have collected within their respective organizations. ISM® makes no representation, other than that stated within this release, regarding the individual company data collection procedures. The data should be compared to all other economic data sources when used in decision-making.

Data and Method of Presentation

The Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business® is based on data compiled from purchasing and supply executives nationwide. Membership of the Non-Manufacturing Business Survey Committee is diversified by NAICS, based on each industry's contribution to gross domestic product (GDP). The Non-Manufacturing Business Survey Committee responses are divided into the following NAICS code categories: Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Mining; Utilities; Construction; Wholesale Trade; Retail Trade; Transportation & Warehousing; Information; Finance & Insurance; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Management of Companies & Support Services; Educational Services; Health Care & Social Assistance; Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Accommodation & Food Services; Public Administration; and Other Services (services such as Equipment & Machinery Repairing; Promoting or Administering Religious Activities; Grantmaking; Advocacy; and Providing Dry-Cleaning & Laundry Services, Personal Care Services, Death Care Services, Pet Care Services, Photofinishing Services, Temporary Parking Services, and Dating Services).

Survey responses reflect the change, if any, in the current month compared to the previous month. For each of the indicators measured (Business Activity, New Orders, Backlog of Orders, New Export Orders, Inventory Change, Inventory Sentiment, Imports, Prices, Employment and Supplier Deliveries), this report shows the percentage reporting each response and the diffusion index. Responses represent raw data and are never changed. Data is seasonally adjusted for Business Activity, New Orders, Prices and Employment. All seasonal adjustment factors are subject annually to relatively minor changes when conditions warrant them. The remaining indexes have not indicated significant seasonality.

The NMI® (Non-Manufacturing Index) is a composite index based on the diffusion indexes for four of the indicators with equal weights: Business Activity (seasonally adjusted), New Orders (seasonally adjusted), Employment (seasonally adjusted) and Supplier Deliveries. Diffusion indexes have the properties of leading indicators and are convenient summary measures showing the prevailing direction of change and the scope of change. An index reading above 50 percent indicates that the non-manufacturing economy is generally expanding; below 50 percent indicates that it is generally declining. Supplier Deliveries is an exception. A Supplier Deliveries Index above 50 percent indicates slower deliveries and below 50 percent indicates faster deliveries.

An NMI® above 48.5 percent, over time, indicates that the overall economy, or gross domestic product (GDP), is generally expanding; below 48.5 percent, it is generally declining. The distance from 50 percent or 48.5 percent is indicative of the strength of the expansion or decline.

The Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business® survey is sent out to Non-Manufacturing Business Survey Committee respondents the first part of each month. Respondents are asked to ONLY report on information for the current month. ISM® receives survey responses throughout most of any given month, with the majority of respondents generally waiting until late in the month to submit responses in order to give the most accurate picture of current business activity. ISM® then compiles the report for release on the third business day of the following month.

The industries reporting growth, as indicated in the Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business® monthly report, are listed in the order of most growth to least growth. For the industries reporting contraction or decreases, those are listed in the order of the highest level of contraction/decrease to the least level of contraction/decrease.

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About Institute for Supply Management®

Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) serves supply management professionals in more than 90 countries. Its 50,000 members around the world manage about US$1 trillion in corporate and government supply chain procurement annually. Founded in 1915 as the first supply management institute in the world, ISM is committed to advancing the practice of supply management to drive value and competitive advantage for its members, contributing to a prosperous and sustainable world. ISM leads the profession through the ISM Report On Business®, its highly regarded certification programs and the ISM Mastery Model®. This report has been issued by the association since 1931, except for a four-year interruption during World War II.

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