US manufacturing contracts for fourth straight month as trade war drags on

The U.S. manufacturing sector contracted for a fourth consecutive month in November, according to industry figures released Monday by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM).

The ISM’s Production Manufacturing Index measured 48.1 percent, compared with October’s 48.3 percent. Any readings below 50 percent indicate contraction.

New orders and employment were down, as were inventories and new exports. Measures for production and supplier deliveries also fell below the 50 percent threshold but showed improvements from October.

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While the overall U.S. economy remains strong — with low unemployment and robust consumer spending — the weak spot in manufacturing could pose a challenge for President Trump as he seeks reelection next year.

In 2016, Trump promised to rehabilitate the manufacturing sector, but a major roadblock to achieving that has been the president’s year-plus trade war with China.

“Global trade remains the most significant cross-industry issue,” ISM chairman Timothy R. Fiore said in a statement Monday.

Americans for Free Trade, an industry group lobbying against tariffs, decried the trade war following the release of the ISM report.

“It’s no secret the trade war is doing significant damage to American manufacturing,” said Jonathan Gold, the group’s spokesman. “Today’s report is more proof that we need both sides to come together and agree to a final deal as quickly as possible that ends the trade war and lifts these tariffs that are hurting American manufacturers, businesses and workers.”

Washington and Beijing announced in October that they had reached a “phase one” deal on trade, but since then they have failed to finalize details. The trade war between the world’s two largest economies began in July 2018.

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Written by Alan Smith

Alan Smith

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