December GBI Shows Improved Business for Larger Firms

While the Gardner Business Index ended 2019 with a year low reading of 47.8, certain sectors of the manufacturing industry continue to impress; one must simply know where to look.

The Gardner Business Index (GBI) closed 2019 at 47.8, indicating a slightly faster pace of contracting business conditions as compared to November. Index readings above 50 indicate expanding activity while values below 50 indicate contracting activity. The further away a reading is from 50 the greater the magnitude of activity change. Gardner Intelligence’s review of the underlying data for the month observed that the Index – calculated as an average of its components – was lifted by expanding activity in supplier deliveries and modestly contracting activity in new orders, employment and exports. The Index was pulled lower by production and backlog readings which reported quickening contraction.

Among the over 20 end markets tracked by Gardner, five stood out during 2019. The fastest growing industry was aerospace followed by medical manufacturing.  At the close of 2019, three other end-market continued to signal modest expansionary growth based on the 3-month moving average of their monthly readings. Those were petroleum processing, power generation and electronics manufacturing. Nearly all other end-markets tracked by Gardner started off 2019 reporting expansionary growth yet faltered at some point during the second half of the year. Among those experiencing the greatest contraction at year-end were pumps, construction machinery and custom processors.

December’s data reported improving business activity levels for firms of 50-99 and 100-250 employees in size.  This contrasted with the December data reported by businesses having fewer than 50 employees.  Among these smaller firms, overall activity contracted at or near the fastest levels experienced during all of 2019.

For the month, Moldmaking was the best performing technology; it was followed by Composites, Metalworking, Production Machining, Finishing and Plastics Technology. To learn more about the detailed trends occurring in the manufacturing sector visit Gardner’s Business Index website at:


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A diffusion index measuring month-to-month changes in activity at durable goods and discrete parts manufacturing facilities.