American manufacturing activity just dropped to its slowest pace since Trump took office

  • A measure of manufacturing activity fell last month to its lowest level since President Donald Trump took office.
  • Businesses and industry groups have said tariffs have increased costs at a time when global manufacturing activity is already slowing.
  • While proponents of tariffs argue tariffs have brought jobs back to the US, there is no shortage of companies who disagree.

A measure of manufacturing activity fell last month to its lowest level since President Donald Trump took office, as American companies grapple with a flurry of tariffs his administration has imposed.

The Institute for Supply Management said on Monday its gauge of manufacturing activity fell more than expected in May to 52.1 from 52.8 the previous month, bringing it to its slowest pace since 2016.

Businesses and industry groups have said tariffs have increased costs at a time when global growth is already slowing.

“The sector can’t thrive when it’s being hit by new taxes at random every few weeks,” said Ian Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Trump has ignited trade disputes with multiple countries over the past two years, subjecting hundreds of billions of dollars worth of products to tariffs and triggering retaliatory actions from major US business partners.

“Newly increased tariffs on Chinese imports pose an issue on a number of chemicals and materials that are solely produced in China,” one respondent said in the ISM survey. “We are expecting increases in raw materials starting June 1.”

Trump asserts his trade wars will ultimately help American companies by pressuring countries to change policies seen as unfair. While proponents of those policies argue tariffs have brought jobs back to the US, there is no shortage of companies who disagree.

“The threat of additional tariffs has forced a change in our supply chain strategy; we are shifting business from China to Mexico, which will not increase the number of U.S. jobs,” another ISM respondent said.

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