There is good news and bad news regarding recent U.S. machine tool performance. The September 2013 sales numbers are stronger but still lagging from the previous year.

Robert Brooks of Industry Week analyzes the U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders report from the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT):

Domestic machine shops and other manufacturers ordered $397.57 million of machine tools and related technology during September, a 5.8% improvement over $375.72 million, the revised figure for August new orders. However, the new figure represents a 31.1% decline from September 2012’s result, $5,507.71 million, a historically high total that coincided with IMTS 2012.

For the nine-month total of 2013, U.S. Machine tools orders amounted to $3,507.71 million, down 11.3% behind the comparable time stretch in 2012.

AMT President Douglas Woods predicts a rising sun on the horizon when it comes to machine tools and manufacturing in general:

The monthly gain in USMTO indicates that manufacturers are making capital investments, and we expect these gains will grow in 2014. The year-over-year decline was anticipated due to the typical high volume during an IMTS year, which we saw in September 2012. A recent uptick in factory orders show strong activity in a number of industries, particularly aerospace which is forecast to grow more than 10% in the coming year. We also expect growth in automotive and energy, good news for manufacturing.

Other recent reports have the domestic machine tool industry in a more bullish hiring mode. Writes Jeff Green in a recent article in Bloomberg:

 Makers of dies and machine tools have increased employment by about 18% since August 2009, compared with a 2.9 percent gain for overall manufacturing, according to Dan Luria, an independent manufacturing economist in Brighton, Michigan.

Green cites the advent of 3-D printers and smartphone like the iPhone as technology game changers that allow small shops “to meet demand for low volume, highly-customizable products.”

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