US services activity, prices surge in March: survey

New York (AFP) –


Activity in the US services sector hit an all-time high in March, but the sudden surge in business stretched supply chains and lifted prices, a report said Monday.

The Institute for Supply Management's purchasing managers index hit 63.7, up from 55.3 the prior month, according to a statement. That reading tops the prior record in October 2018.

Both the business activity and new orders benchmarks hit records in March, while employment activity rose for the third straight month.

But the report was not without some warning signs.

Some companies told the ISM they were experiencing increased logistical problems and labor shortfalls that could crimp the recovery.

The report also said prices "increased in March and at a faster rate." All 18 sectors surveyed experienced higher prices.

A construction sector official said the industry was faced with building material shortages, shipping delays at West Coast ports and a lack of supplies due to the Texas electricity crisis that curtailed petrochemical plant output.

"We have encountered the 'perfect storm' for building material shortages and price increases," the official said.

More positive was an official in educational services who said there was "optimism in higher education that Fall 2021 will be near normal with vaccinated students, employees and staff returning to their roles on campus."