Factory orders and order backlogs rose in November in the seven-state region that includes Nebraska, the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank said Friday in a report that showed the area's manufacturing index rose in November versus October.
The Kansas City branch of the nation's central bank said the district manufacturing index for November showed a reading of seven, up from six in October and two in September.
The index's components include factory production, new orders, employment, supplier delivery time and raw materials inventories in Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma and the northern parts of Missouri and New Mexico.
The Kansas City Fed said the hiring outlook was good, reaching its highest level since March 2012. The report relied upon responses from 105 plants.
“Factory activity in our region continues to hum along at a moderate rate of growth,” said Chad Wilkerson, a vice president and economist at the Kansas City Fed. He said the “marked improvement in hiring plans was a nice development.”
Among the index's components, new orders and order backlog rose sharply from October to November. Employee hours worked rose modestly, while production fell the same.
“We are slightly below budget in sales,” said Dave Douglas, general manager of U.S. operations for Conductix-Wampfler, a German-based manufacturer with a large operation in Omaha. “We are expecting growth, but it will probably be very modest.”
The company, whose products include materials handling equipment for mines and ports, employs about 200 people in Nebraska. Douglas said uncertainty over government issues such as the federal budget and federally mandated health care plans is hampering expansion plans.
“We are hiring,” Douglas said, “but it is mostly just replacement hiring.”
In other areas, labor demand is more robust, said Carl Fielder, director of career education at Metropolitan Community College, which offers a wide variety of classes in hands-on fields such as welding.
“We get calls all the time from companies,” Fielder said. “We have no trouble placing everyone.”