15 May 2020

Manufacturing sector activity at record low

1:04 pm on 15 May 2020

The manufacturing sector has fallen to its lowest ever recorded levels of production, with economists saying this is rock bottom.

Stock image of boxes with Made in New Zealand stamped on the side.

Photo: 123rf

The BNZ-Business New Zealand Performance of Manufacturing Index for April was 26.1.

The previous low of 36.1 was recorded in November 2008 during the Global Financial Crisis.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion, below 50 is contraction.

BNZ senior economist Doug Steel said April's performance was never going to be anything but awful.

"Unsurprisingly, extreme weakness was seen across the board in April whether looking by region, by sector, or by firm size."

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New orders recorded the weakest results of all categories with a reading of 17.8.

Steel said a number like that would previously have been unthinkable.

"Production was similarly feeble at 19.8. These are simply dreadful readings representing a sudden stop across much of the manufacturing sector.

"Needless to say, they are miles below normal."

However, he said the employment component was not nearly as dire, with a reading of 41.2.

"This, at least relatively, better outcome, in part, likely reflects the government's massive wage subsidy scheme. This fits with our thinking that while we expect NZ's unemployment rate to reach double digits over the coming 12 months, increases may be somewhat tempered in the near term."

He said improvement was expected from here on out as the strict alert levels had now been lifted.

Compared to other countries, New Zealand's April reading was lower.

"Which tallies with suggestions that New Zealand restrictions have been tighter than many," Steel said.

"China recorded its worst reading back in February, at 35.7, but has since edged back above 50 as the long road to recovery is started. This provides some hope as lockdown restrictions are relaxed here and elsewhere."

No figures were collected for March due to the burden it would have put on businesses. In February the reading was 53.2, indicating expansion.

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