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Furniture Industry Rides Rollercoaster

In the weeks before the national election consumers began taking a dimmer view of the economy’s prospects after showing signs of optimism earlier in the year.

Consumers’ earlier positive outlook was reflected in the most recent monthly survey of residential furniture orders, shipments and other industry data.

“Overall, as we have noted before, most of the indicators that we have tracked are good for the industry,” said Kenneth D. Smith of the Smith Leonard accounting firm, which reports furniture industry data each month.

New orders for residential furniture manufacturers and distributors increased 6% in August 2016 over August 2015. The 6% increase followed a 5% decrease reported in July.

The August numbers were released at the end of October and include year-to-date numbers showing new orders were up about 0.5%. As was the case in the month-to-month comparison, only 44% of participants reported increased orders year-to-date, up from 39% reporting increases July.

The first eight months of 2015 were 5% higher than the first eight months of 2014, Smith Leonard noted. In 2016 year-to-date, shipments were back to about even with the same period a year ago after a 1% decline reported in July.

Backlogs fell 2% from July as shipments exceeded new orders. July backlogs were 2% lower than August 2015 levels, and were 2% off this August as well. This contrasts to a 5% increase reported last year, comparing August 2015 to August 2014.

August inventories were down 1% from July 2015 and down 1% from last August. Inventories were up 2% in August, so the decline is probably a good thing considering overall business conditions, Smith Leonard observed.

It also reported that the number of factory and warehouse employees was even with July 2016 and up 1% from last August. This increase was in line with the previous two months’ results, Smith Leonard pointed out.

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