GBI Shows Uneven Business Activity in Third Quarter

While some manufacturing markets have maintained their levels of growth, manufacturing as a whole is in its third month of consistent contraction.

The Gardner Business Index (GBI) finished September at 48.2, marking its third consecutive month of contracting business activity and falling over 16% from the same month one-year ago. 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 supported by supplier deliveries and production. Backlogs and exports contracted the fastest during the month, pulling down the Index. Employment and new orders readings had little impact on the total index’s calculated result.

For a second month, firms between 100 and 250 employees in size reported the fastest rate of contracting business activity. Between the start of 2017 and mid-2019, firms of this size range frequently reported greater business activity expansion than shops of smaller size classes.  Additionally, those small shops were also the first to begin regularly reporting contracting business activity in late 2018. Despite having been the first to report contracting activity, smaller manufacturers in the year-to-date period have reported the softest rates of contracting activity when compared to their larger peers.

The relatively weak readings provided by the GBI in recent months veil the several geographic areas and end-markets which continue to experience expansionary activity. Manufacturers supporting the aerospace, primary metals, medical and electrical components end-markets continue to report expanding business activity. In contrast, end-markets that are more sensitive to trade, including agriculture and construction, have been severely affected by the recent slowdown in those sectors.

For the month, Metalworking was the best performing technology; it was followed by Moldmaking, Plastics, Composites, Finishing and Production Machining. To learn more about the trends in manufacturing business activity across regions, end-markets, company sizes and manufacturing processes please visit Gardner’s GBI website at:, readers can also visit our website blog and social media accounts to read about the latest news in the manufacturing sector.


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World Machine Tool Survey

An independent annual survey that collects statistics from machine tool consuming and producing countries and compares them in real U.S. dollars.

Capital Spending Survey

An annual survey that collects statistics regarding budgeted spending on machine tools, testing equipment, software and more.

Gardner Business Index

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