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The American manufacturing industry got terrible news this week as a widely watched indicator posted a disappointing report of historic proportion.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM)’s factory index plunged from 56.5 in December to 51.3 – well below the expected 56 reading. For those of you keeping score at home, anything above 50 indicates economic expansion – anything below 50 indicates contraction.

That’s the biggest expectations miss in history – one reasons stocks plunged by nearly 250 points during the first three hours of trading Monday.

Ready for more bad news? The ISM’s new orders index fell off of a cliff – falling from 64.4 in December to 51.2 last month – the biggest decline since December 1980. Those dismal results extended to the manufacturing employment index – which fell from 55.8 to 52.3.

Time for somebody to blame the weather again …

South Carolina industry leaders declined to comment on the results, but one manufacturer told FITS the Palmetto State has “a lot of economic development projects in the works.”

Which of course isn’t exactly good news when you get right down to it …