February 15, 2021

Metal Shipments Down from Year Ago Levels, But Remain Above 2020 Lows


  • According to MSCI’s Metals Activity Report, U.S. service center steel shipments in January 2021 fell 11.8 percent from January 2020. Shipments of aluminum products decreased by 5.6 percent. Canadian service center steel shipments in January 2021 declined 6.4 percent from January 2020 while shipments of aluminum products increased 3.9 percent during the same period. Despite the declines, shipment levels remain above their COVID-19 pandemic lows.
  • The National Federation of Independent Business’s survey of small business optimism fell to 95 in January, down from 95.9 in December. As recently as October 2020 the survey stood at 104, which also was where it stood in February 2020 before the pandemic. Small businesses’ outlook on the economy has eroded as COVID-19 cases have risen in recent months. Despite the overall decline in the index, however, small businesses indicated they are still hiring and planning to hire in the coming months. Click here to read the full report.
  • According to American Machinist and the Association for Manufacturing Technology, U.S. manufacturers ordered $456.7 million worth of new capital equipment during December 2020, a 40 percent increase from November 2020 and a 17.6 percent increase from December 2019.
  • During the week that ended Feb. 6, 793,000 individuals filed for federal unemployment benefits for the first time, a decrease of 19,000 from the previous week’s level. The four-week moving average of first-time claims was 823,000, a decrease of 33,500 from the previous week’s revised average. Click here to read the full report. In other employment-related news, the U.S. Department of Labor also announced that there were 5.5 million jobs open in the United States at the end of December 2020. Openings in the manufacturing sector declined by 30,000 to 475,000.
  • In other economic news: the U.S. consumer price index rose 0.3 percent from December 2020 to January 2021 and 1.4 percent from January 2020 to January 2021; real average hourly earnings for all U.S. employees were unchanged from December to January, but were up four percent from January 2020 to January 2021; and wholesale trade in Canada fell 1.3 percent in December 2020, declining for the first time since April due to sharply lower auto sales.