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Sept 3 -- The U.S. Census Bureau plans to request a revision of the current Office of Management and Budget (OMB) clearance of the Manufacturers' Shipments, Inventories and Orders (M3) survey for the period 2021-24. Census invites public comment by November 2, 2020.
The M3 survey requests data monthly from domestic manufacturers on form M-3 (SD). Data requested are shipments, new orders, unfilled orders, total inventory, materials and supplies, work-in-process, and finished goods. The M3 survey is designed to measure current industrial activity and to provide an indication of future production commitments. The value of shipments measures the value of goods delivered during the month by domestic manufacturers. Estimates of new orders serve as an indicator of future production commitments and represent the current sales value of new orders received during the month, net of cancellations. Substantial accumulation or depletion of unfilled orders measures excess or deficient demand for manufactured products. The level of inventories, especially in relation to shipments, is frequently used to monitor the business cycle, by calculating the inventories to sales ratio. In general, a low ratio indicates strong shipments. A high ratio indicates weaker shipments or accumulation of inventories in stock.

Starting in 2021, we may ask for additional data on the electronic instrument on a temporary quarterly basis to address a new module of business expectations. The new question will not be added to the paper M-3 (SD) form. Respondents will be divided into three subsamples; once a quarter, each subsample will be asked for a one year ahead estimate with five points and corresponding probabilities. For the April 2021 reporting period, selected M3 respondents would see a question similar, but possibly not identical, to the following drafted question:

Looking ahead to April 2022, what is the approximate dollar value of net shipments, manufactured in the U.S. you would anticipate during that month for this reporting unit, and what likelihood do you assign to that value?
Leading indicators and forward-looking measures such as forecasts and projections are highly valued for their ability to help decision-makers, businesses, and individuals plan and adjust policies if necessary. To reduce respondent burden, companies will receive the supplemental question once per quarter asking for the expectation of net shipments looking twelve months ahead; expectations will be reported at the same level as they report for the rest of the instrument. Responses to this question will provide a better understanding of business uncertainty and insight on future business activity. Initially, this pilot collection will request data for twelve months with the possibility of continuing collection for an additional twelve months.
Additionally, in 2021, we plan to accelerate the nondurable manufacturing estimates to the same time as the Advance Report on Durable Goods Manufacturers' Shipments, Inventories and Orders to create an advance high-level report of total manufacturing. Currently, the Advance report on Durable goods is available approximately 18 working days after each month, with the Full report available approximately 23 working days after each month. Accelerating the nondurable release would provide data users with early access to total manufacturing estimates ahead of the Full report, giving them an early snapshot of the direction of this critical indicator. Prior to releasing this advance total manufacturing data, we will submit a memo of exception to the Office of Management and Budget.
M3 webpage: https://www.census.gov/manufacturing/m3/index.html
Current M3 form: https://www.census.gov/manufacturing/m3/get_forms/index.html
M3 methodology: https://www.census.gov/manufacturing/m3/how_the_data_are_collected/index.html
FR notice inviting comments: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/09/03/2020-19476/agency-information-collection-activities-submission-to-the-office-of-management-and-budget-omb-for

Point of contact: Carol Aristone, U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Indicators Division    (301) 763-7062   carol.ann.aristone@census.gov

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