The numbers: A closely-watched index that measures U.S. manufacturing activity fell 0.7 percentage points to 50.2 in October, according to the Institute for Supply Management on Tuesday.
Economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal had forecast the index to inch down to 50. Any number below 50% reflects a shrinking economy.
It is the lowest level since May 2020.
Key details: The index for new orders remained in contraction territory, rising 2.1 points to 47.1. The production index rose 1.7 points to 52.3.
The employment index rose 1.3 points to 50 in October.
Supplier deliveries fell 5.6 points to 46.8 in October. This is the first time that deliveries were in a “faster” territory since February 2016.
The price index dropped 5.1 points to 46.6., also the lowest reading since the pandemic. Pricing power is shifting back to the buyer, the ISM said.
Only 8 of the 18 manufacturing industries reported growth in October.
Big picture: Manufacturing has been slowing recently led by softening business spending and fading demand for consumer goods. Economists think it is inevitable the index slips below the 50 threshold.
In a separate data, the S&P global U.S. manufacturing PMI inched up to 50.4 in its “final” reading in October from the “flash” reading of 49.9. This is down from a reading of 52 in September.
What ISM said: Manufacturing is slowing down and could soon enter contraction territory, but that doesn’t mean there will be a recession in the U.S., said Timothy Fiore, chair of the ISM factory business survey.
“I don’t see a collapse of new orders. I don’t see a collapse of the PMI,” Fiore said.
Looking ahead: “Recession jitters among manufacturers won’t disappear any time soon…manufacturing will endure more pain as demand weakens at home and abroad while prices stay high and interest rates remain fairly elevated,” said Oren Klachkin, economist at Oxford Economics.