Services PMI® at 63.7%


March 2021 Services ISM® Report On Business®

Business Activity Index at 69.4%
New Orders Index at 67.2%
Employment Index at 57.2%
Supplier Deliveries Index at 61.0%

(Tempe, Arizona) — Economic activity in the services sector grew in March for the 10th month in a row, say the nation’s purchasing and supply executives in the latest Services ISM® Report On Business®.

The report was issued today by Anthony Nieves, CPSM, C.P.M., A.P.P., CFPM, Chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Services Business Survey Committee: “The Services PMI® registered an all-time high of 63.7 percent, 8.4 percentage points higher than the February reading of 55.3 percent. The previous high was in October 2018, when the Services PMI® registered 60.9 percent. The March reading indicates the 10th straight month of growth for the services sector, which has expanded for all but two of the last 134 months.”

Nieves continues, “For further historical context, the Services PMI® debuted as the Non-Manufacturing NMI® in 2008, although subindex data was collected for years in advance. In August 1997, the four subindexes — Business Activity, New Orders, Employment and Supplier Deliveries — that make up the Services PMI® would have calculated a composite-index reading of 62 percent.

“The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 61 percent, up 0.2 percentage point from February’s reading of 60.8 percent. (Supplier Deliveries is the only ISM® Report On Business® index that is inversed; a reading of above 50 percent indicates slower deliveries, which is typical as the economy improves and customer demand increases.)

“The Prices Index figure of 74 percent is 2.2 percentage points higher than the February reading of 71.8 percent, indicating that prices increased in March, and at a faster rate. According to the Services PMI®, all 18 services industries reported growth. The composite index indicated growth for the 10th consecutive month after a two-month contraction in April and May. There was a substantial increase in the rate of growth in the services sector in March. Respondents’ comments indicate that the lifting of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic-related restrictions has released pent-up demand for many of their respective companies’ services. Production-capacity constraints, material shortages, weather and challenges in logistics and human resources continue to cause supply chain disruption,” says Nieves.

INDUSTRY PERFORMANCE

All of the 18 services industries reporting growth in March — listed in order — are: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Wholesale Trade; Mining; Management of Companies & Support Services; Construction; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Accommodation & Food Services; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Transportation & Warehousing; Public Administration; Finance & Insurance; Utilities; Health Care & Social Assistance; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Information; Retail Trade; Educational Services; and Other Services.

WHAT RESPONDENTS ARE SAYING

  • “Logistics delays and uncertainty are creating significant problems with suppliers and inventories. Also, [there are] cost concerns regarding inflated pricing due to logistics and shortages.” (Accommodation & Food Services)
  • “Our four Southern California locations are finally open after being closed for 12 months. We are currently experiencing severe supply chain and distribution disruptions related to multiple factors. Reopening of the California and New York movie theater markets [is] creating a surge in demand; also, manufacturers and a distributor partner are dealing with labor shortages.” (Arts, Entertainment & Recreation)
  • “Residential new home construction demand continues to outpace supply. Building material delays, discontinuations and shortages are beginning to develop. Shipping delays at the L.A. and Long Beach ports have contributed to longer lead times. Cold weather in Texas has hurt several component manufacturers for building materials. We have encountered the ‘perfect storm’ for building material shortages and price increases.” (Construction)
  • “There is optimism in higher education that Fall 2021 will be near normal with vaccinated students, employees and staff returning to their roles on campus.” (Educational Services)
  • “Local and national outlook remains positive, despite return-to-work concerns [and] work-from-home-related issues/purchases.” (Finance & Insurance)
  • “Vaccination rates are rising, and coronavirus [COVID-19] infections are falling in the region, leading to optimistic outlooks and forecasts for increased business activity. Patient census numbers are trending upward, mainly due to a better ratio of patients seeking elective procedures versus COVID-19 hospitalizations. However, revenues are still soft, indicating that a full rebound in business activity has not yet been realized.” (Health Care & Social Assistance)
  • “Resin/oil price increases are beginning to filter down to products that we procure. In addition to price increases, we are also seeing longer lead times as supply chains pivot to find cheaper supply options.” (Information)
  • “Lack of chemicals and the recent freeze in Texas has delayed some orders and is creating a micro [price] increases for certain products. Suppliers are using the short-term shortage to their advantage to raise rates.” (Mining)
  • “Higher levels of demand related to additional business reopening, and increased activity related to vaccination distribution.” (Professional, Scientific & Technical Services)
  • “Business is picking up as mandated restrictions seem to be easing and spring is right around the corner.” (Real Estate, Rental & Leasing)
  • “Outlook remains cautiously optimistic for the second half of the year as businesses continue to open up and projects come online.” (Retail Trade)
  • “Overall, there are still delays in import shipments of goods, though [the situation has] slightly improved. The market forecast on ocean shipments and logistics is still the same for next quarter; improvements might be seen in Q3. COVID-19 issues continue to impact demand and supply across the globe, and the new stimulus aid is expected to help the economy and lead to an increase in retail spending over the next few months.” (Wholesale Trade)

ISM® SERVICES SURVEY RESULTS AT A GLANCE COMPARISON OF ISM® SERVICES AND ISM® MANUFACTURING SURVEYS*
March 2021

  Services PMI® Manufacturing PMI®
Index Series Index Mar Series Index Feb Percent Point Change Direction Rate of Change Trend** (Months) Series Index Mar Series Index Feb Percent Point Change
Services PMI® 63.7 55.3 +8.4 Growing Faster 10 64.7 60.8 +3.9
Business Activity/ Production 69.4 55.5 +13.9 Growing Faster 10 68.1 63.2 +4.9
New Orders 67.2 51.9 +15.3 Growing Faster 10 68.0 64.8 +3.2
Employment 57.2 52.7 +4.5 Growing Faster 3 59.6 54.4 +5.2
Supplier Deliveries 61.0 60.8 +0.2 Slowing Faster 22 76.6 72.0 +4.6
Inventories 54.0 58.9 -4.9 Growing Slower 2 50.8 49.7 +1.1
Prices 74.0 71.8 +2.2 Increasing Faster 46 85.6 86.0 -0.4
Backlog of Orders 50.2 55.2 -5.0 Growing Slower 3 67.5 64.0 +3.5
New Export Orders 55.5 57.6 -2.1 Growing Slower 2 54.5 57.2 -2.7
Imports 50.7 50.5 +0.2 Growing Faster 6 56.7 56.1 +0.6
Inventory Sentiment 52.7 54.3 -1.6 Too High Slower 2 N/A N/A N/A
Customers' Inventories N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 29.9 32.5 -2.6
Overall Economy Growing Faster 10
Services Sector Growing Faster 10

Services ISM® Report On Business® data is seasonally adjusted for the Business Activity, New Orders, Prices and Employment indexes. Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business® data is seasonally adjusted for New Orders, Production, Employment and Inventories indexes.
**Number of months moving in current direction.

COMMODITIES REPORTED UP/DOWN IN PRICE AND IN SHORT SUPPLY


Commodities Up in Price


Chemicals; Construction Materials; Construction Services; Copper Products (2); Diesel (4); Electrical Components (2); Exam Gloves (6); Food & Beverage; Freight (4); Fuel (3); Gasoline (4); Gasoline-Related Products; Labor (4); Labor — Construction; Labor — Temporary (3); Lumber (3); Oriented Strand Board (OSB) (4); Packaging Materials; Paint-Related Products; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)* (14); PPE — Gloves (6); Poly Products; Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Products (7); Resin Products (3); Steel (7); Steel Conduit; Steel Products (3); Steel — Rolled; Trucking Services; and Wood Products (2).


Commodities Down in Price


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)* (2).


Commodities in Short Supply


Construction Contractors (6); Exam Gloves (2); Gloves (4); Integrated Circuits; Labor (4); Labor — Construction (3); Labor — Temporary (3); Needles & Syringes (4); Nitrile Gloves (10); Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (14); Pipette; Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Products (2); Semiconductors; Sharps Disposal Containers; Surgical Gowns; and Steel Products (4).

Note: The number of consecutive months the commodity is listed is indicated after each item. *Indicates both up and down in price.

 


MARCH 2021 SERVICES INDEX SUMMARIES


Services PMI®

In March, the Services PMI® registered 63.7 percent, an 8.4 percentage-point increase compared to the February figure of 55.3 percent. This reading indicates the services sector grew for the 10th consecutive month after two months of contraction and 122 months of growth before that. A reading above 50 percent indicates the services sector economy is generally expanding; below 50 percent indicates the services sector is generally contracting.

A Services PMI® above 49.2 percent, over time, generally indicates an expansion of the overall economy. Therefore, the March Services PMI® indicates expansion for a 10th straight month following two months of contraction and a preceding period of 127 months of growth. Nieves says, “The past relationship between the Services PMI® and the overall economy indicates that the Services PMI® for March (63.7 percent) corresponds to a 5.1-percent increase in real gross domestic product (GDP) on an annualized basis.”

SERVICES PMI® HISTORY

Month Services PMI®
Mar 2021 63.7
Feb 2021 55.3
Jan 2021 58.7
Dec 2020 57.7
Nov 2020 56.8
Oct 2020 56.2
Month Services PMI®
Sep 2020 57.2
Aug 2020 57.2
Jul 2020 56.6
Jun 2020 56.5
May 2020 45.4
Apr 2020 41.6
55.2
63.7
41.6

Business Activity

ISM®’s Business Activity Index registered an all-time high of 69.4 percent in March, an increase of 13.9 percentage points from the February reading of 55.5 percent. This represents growth for the 10th consecutive month and is the highest reading for the index since data collection began in 1997. Comments from respondents include: “Customer activity increasing” and “We believe there is some pent-up demand starting to come back as back-orders and production ramp up after COVID-19 delays; we also think there is purchase optimism due to the recent stimulus package.”

The 17 industries reporting an increase in business activity for the month of March — listed in order — are: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Mining; Management of Companies & Support Services; Accommodation & Food Services; Wholesale Trade; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Utilities; Finance & Insurance; Public Administration; Transportation & Warehousing; Health Care & Social Assistance; Construction; Information; Retail Trade; Educational Services; and Professional, Scientific & Technical Services. Other Services is the only industry reporting a decrease in March compared to February.

Business Activity % Higher % Same % Lower Index
Mar 2021 41.9 50.2 7.9 69.4
Feb 2021 26.2 59.3 14.6 55.5
Jan 2021 29.7 51.4 18.8 59.9
Dec 2020 31.4 50.4 18.2 60.5

New Orders

ISM®’s New Orders Index registered an all-time high of 67.2 percent, an increase of 15.3 percentage points from the February reading of 51.9 percent. New orders grew for the 10th consecutive month after two months of contraction and a preceding period of 128 months of expansion. Comments from respondents include: “We have resumed several large projects that were on hold due to the pandemic” and “Higher sales at retail outlets.”

The 17 industries reporting growth of new orders in March — listed in order — are: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Mining; Management of Companies & Support Services; Wholesale Trade; Accommodation & Food Services; Utilities; Public Administration; Health Care & Social Assistance; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Retail Trade; Transportation & Warehousing; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Finance & Insurance; Construction; Information; and Educational Services. No industry reported a decrease in new orders for March.

New Orders % Higher % Same % Lower Index
Mar 2021 39.5 49.9 10.6 67.2
Feb 2021 27.0 54.9 18.1 51.9
Jan 2021 30.5 51.6 17.9 61.8
Dec 2020 30.3 49.9 19.7 58.6

Employment

Employment activity in the services sector grew in March for the third consecutive month after contracting in December. After 72 straight pre-pandemic months of expansion, the index contracted from March through September. ISM®’s Services Employment Index registered 57.2 percent in March, up 4.5 percentage points from the February reading of 52.7 percent. Comments from respondents include: “Have recalled everyone put on waivers and made new hires” and “Additional employees added to service the need of new customers at new locations.”

The 10 industries reporting an increase in employment in March — listed in order — are: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Management of Companies & Support Services; Wholesale Trade; Construction; Finance & Insurance; Other Services; Accommodation & Food Services; Public Administration; Educational Services; and Professional, Scientific & Technical Services. The three industries that reported a reduction in employment in March are: Utilities; Information; and Health Care & Social Assistance.

Employment % Higher % Same % Lower Index
Mar 2021 22.6 66.3 11.1 57.2
Feb 2021 16.4 69.2 14.3 52.7
Jan 2021 16.2 73.0 10.8 55.2
Dec 2020 14.6 66.8 18.6 48.7

Supplier Deliveries

The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 61 percent, which is 0.2 percentage point higher than the 60.8 percent reported in February. A reading above 50 percent indicates slower deliveries, while a reading below 50 percent indicates faster deliveries. Comments from respondents include: “Logistics challenges, port delays, shipping delays, [and lower] part availability” and “It is still difficult to find trucks for loads and to secure shipping containers.”

The 14 industries reporting slower deliveries in March — listed in order — are: Wholesale Trade; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Mining; Transportation & Warehousing; Construction; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Management of Companies & Support Services; Health Care & Social Assistance; Utilities; Other Services; Information; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; and Public Administration. The two industries reporting faster deliveries in March are: Finance & Insurance; and Educational Services.

Supplier Deliveries % Slower % Same % Faster Index
Mar 2021 29.3 63.5 7.2 61.0
Feb 2021 25.7 70.2 4.0 60.8
Jan 2021 18.4 78.8 2.8 57.8
Dec 2020 27.6 70.4 2.0 62.8

Inventories

The Inventories Index grew in March for the second consecutive month after a month of contraction in January. The reading of 54 percent was a 4.9-percentage point decrease from the 58.9 percent reported in February. Of the total respondents in March, 46 percent indicated they do not have inventories or do not measure them. Comments from respondents include: “Inventories remain fairly steady, [but] building inventory when and where possible to mitigate supply chain risks, such as supplier plant disruptions, carrier-related delays and the upcoming holidays,” and “Inventories are higher to meet increased demand as well as hedge against lead-time inconsistencies for strategic items.”

The nine industries reporting an increase in inventories in March — listed in order — are: Finance & Insurance; Transportation & Warehousing; Other Services; Utilities; Wholesale Trade; Construction; Information; Management of Companies & Support Services; and Educational Services. The five industries reporting a decrease in inventories in March are: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Retail Trade; Public Administration; Health Care & Social Assistance; and Professional, Scientific & Technical Services.

Inventories % Higher % Same % Lower Index
Mar 2021 32.6 42.8 24.5 54.0
Feb 2021 31.0 55.9 13.1 58.9
Jan 2021 17.0 64.6 18.5 49.2
Dec 2020 28.6 59.2 12.2 58.2

Prices

Prices paid by service organizations for materials and services increased in March, with the index registering 74.0 percent. This is 2.2 percentage points higher than the 71.8 percent reported in February.

All 18 services industries that reported an increase in prices paid during the month of March, listed in order: Construction; Wholesale Trade; Utilities; Mining; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Management of Companies & Support Services; Public Administration; Retail Trade; Transportation & Warehousing; Finance & Insurance; Other Services; Accommodation & Food Services; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Health Care & Social Assistance; Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Educational Services; and Information.

Prices % Higher % Same % Lower Index
Mar 2021 52.0 47.0 1.0 74.0
Feb 2021 43.0 54.2 2.7 71.8
Jan 2021 32.0 63.3 4.8 64.2
Dec 2020 26.5 68.4 5.1 64.4
NOTE: Commodities reported as up in price and down in price are listed in the commodities section of this report.

Backlog of Orders

The ISM® Services Backlog of Orders Index grew in March for the ninth time in the last 10 months. The index registered 50.2 percent; 5 percentage points lower than the 55.2 percent reported in February. Of the total respondents in March, 41 percent indicated they do not measure backlog of orders.

The 11 industries reporting an increase in order backlogs in March — listed in order — are: Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Transportation & Warehousing; Management of Companies & Support Services; Utilities; Accommodation & Food Services; Retail Trade; Mining; Construction; Finance & Insurance; Public Administration; and Wholesale Trade. The six industries that reported a decrease in backlogs in March — listed in order — are: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Other Services; Information; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; and Health Care & Social Assistance.

Backlog of Orders % Higher % Same % Lower Index
Mar 2021 16.6 67.3 16.1 50.2
Feb 2021 25.2 60.1 14.7 55.2
Jan 2021 13.9 74.0 12.1 50.9
Dec 2020 15.2 67.0 17.8 48.7

New Export Orders

Orders and requests for services and other non-manufacturing activities to be provided outside of the U.S. by domestically based companies grew in March for the second consecutive month after contracting in January. The New Export Orders Index registered 55.5 percent in March, which is 2.1 percentage points lower than the 57.6 percent reported in February. Of the total respondents in March, 79 percent indicated they either do not perform, or do not separately measure, orders for work outside of the U.S.

The six industries reporting an increase in new export orders in March — listed in order — are: Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Finance & Insurance; Construction; Transportation & Warehousing; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; and Wholesale Trade. The three industries that reported a decrease in exports in March are: Other Services; Educational Services; and Health Care & Social Assistance. Nine industries reported no change in March.

New Export Orders % Higher % Same % Lower Index
Mar 2021 17.9 75.0 7.0 55.5
Feb 2021 21.9 71.4 6.8 57.6
Jan 2021 13.2 67.7 19.2 47.0
Dec 2020 20.2 74.2 5.6 57.3

Imports

The Imports Index grew at a slightly faster rate in March, as it registered 50.7 percent, 0.2 percentage point higher than February’s figure of 50.5 percent. Seventy percent of respondents reported that they do not use, or do not track the use of, imported materials.

The six industries reporting an increase in imports for the month of March — listed in order — are: Wholesale Trade; Retail Trade; Accommodation & Food Services; Transportation & Warehousing; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; and Construction. The four industries reporting a decrease in imports in March are: Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Other Services; Educational Services; and Health Care & Social Assistance. Eight industries reported no change.

Imports % Higher % Same % Lower Index
Mar 2021 10.1 81.1 8.7 50.7
Feb 2021 16.8 67.4 15.8 50.5
Jan 2021 14.9 77.0 8.0 53.5
Dec 2020 8.8 86.0 5.2 51.8

Inventory Sentiment

The ISM® Services Inventory Sentiment Index in March registered 52.7 percent, which is 1.6 percentage points lower than the 54.3 percent reading in February. This indicates that respondents feel that inventories are too high when correlated to their level of business.

The eight industries reporting sentiment that their inventories were too high in March — listed in order — are: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Mining; Finance & Insurance; Information; Health Care & Social Assistance; Utilities; Other Services; and Professional, Scientific & Technical Services. The six industries reporting a feeling that their inventories were too low in March — listed in order — are: Transportation & Warehousing; Retail Trade; Educational Services; Wholesale Trade; Construction; and Public Administration.

Inventory Sentiment % Too High % About Right % Too Low Index
Mar 2021 16.8 71.7 11.5 52.7
Feb 2021 19.4 69.7 10.9 54.3
Jan 2021 13.0 73.4 13.6 49.7
Dec 2020 10.2 75.1 14.8 47.7

About This Report

DO NOT CONFUSE THIS NATIONAL REPORT with the various regional purchasing reports released across the country. The national report's information reflects the entire U.S., while the regional reports contain primarily regional data from their local vicinities. Also, the information in the regional reports is not used in calculating the results of the national report. The information compiled in this report is for the month of March 2021.

The data presented herein is obtained from a survey of supply executives in the services sector based on information they have collected within their respective organizations. ISM® makes no representation, other than that stated within this release, regarding the individual company data collection procedures. The data should be compared to all other economic data sources when used in decision-making.

Data and Method of Presentation

The Services ISM® Report On Business® (formerly the Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®) is based on data compiled from purchasing and supply executives nationwide. Membership of the Services Business Survey Committee is diversified by NAICS, based on each industry's contribution to gross domestic product (GDP). The Services Business Survey Committee responses are divided into the following NAICS code categories: Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Mining; Utilities; Construction; Wholesale Trade; Retail Trade; Transportation & Warehousing; Information; Finance & Insurance; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Management of Companies & Support Services; Educational Services; Health Care & Social Assistance; Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Accommodation & Food Services; Public Administration; and Other Services (services such as Equipment & Machinery Repairing; Promoting or Administering Religious Activities; Grantmaking; Advocacy; and Providing Dry-Cleaning & Laundry Services, Personal Care Services, Death Care Services, Pet Care Services, Photofinishing Services, Temporary Parking Services, and Dating Services).

Survey responses reflect the change, if any, in the current month compared to the previous month. For each of the indicators measured (Business Activity, New Orders, Backlog of Orders, New Export Orders, Inventory Change, Inventory Sentiment, Imports, Prices, Employment and Supplier Deliveries), this report shows the percentage reporting each response and the diffusion index. Responses represent raw data and are never changed. Data is seasonally adjusted for Business Activity, New Orders, Prices and Employment. All seasonal adjustment factors are subject annually to relatively minor changes when conditions warrant them. The remaining indexes have not indicated significant seasonality.

The Services PMI® is a composite index based on the diffusion indexes for four of the indicators with equal weights: Business Activity (seasonally adjusted), New Orders (seasonally adjusted), Employment (seasonally adjusted) and Supplier Deliveries. Diffusion indexes have the properties of leading indicators and are convenient summary measures showing the prevailing direction of change and the scope of change. An index reading above 50 percent indicates that the services economy is generally expanding; below 50 percent indicates that it is generally declining. Supplier Deliveries is an exception. A Supplier Deliveries Index above 50 percent indicates slower deliveries and below 50 percent indicates faster deliveries.

A Services PMI® above 49.2 percent, over time, indicates that the overall economy, or gross domestic product (GDP), is generally expanding; below 49.2 percent, it is generally declining. The distance from 50 percent or 49.2 percent is indicative of the strength of the expansion or decline.

The Services ISM® Report On Business® survey is sent out to Services Business Survey Committee respondents the first part of each month. Respondents are asked to ONLY report on U.S. operations for the current month. ISM® receives survey responses throughout most of any given month, with the majority of respondents generally waiting until late in the month to submit responses to give the most accurate picture of current business activity. ISM® then compiles the report for release on the third business day of the following month.

The industries reporting growth, as indicated in the Services ISM® Report On Business® monthly report, are listed in the order of most growth to least growth. For the industries reporting contraction or decreases, those are listed in the order of the highest level of contraction/decrease to the least level of contraction/decrease.

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Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) serves supply management professionals in more than 90 countries. Its 50,000 members around the world manage about US$1 trillion in corporate and government supply chain procurement annually. Founded in 1915 as the first supply management institute in the world, ISM is committed to advancing the practice of supply management to drive value and competitive advantage for its members, contributing to a prosperous and sustainable world. ISM leads the profession through the ISM Report On Business®, its highly regarded certification programs and the ISM Mastery Model®. This report has been issued by the association since 1931, except for a four-year interruption during World War II.

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