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llustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The manufacturing sector has bounced back from its pandemic knockout. But as the economy reopens, factories can't keep up with orders.

Why it matters: The materials manufacturers need are hard to find and prices for them are soaring.

  • The shortages could delay orders for companies relying on them, while the price surges could ripple out to the consumer.

Stunning stat: An important gauge of manufacturing activity in America matched the highest level in 17 years last month, a closely eyed survey by the Institute for Supply Management showed Monday.

Context: Last April — at the onset of the pandemic — the industry was in the worst shape since the global financial crisis.

  • The biggest winners since then: food and beverage manufacturers, along with makers of computers, chemicals and metals.
  • Losers: petroleum and coal manufacturers — the only sector to contract last month.

Yes, but: Material shortages could prevent factories from making good on the surge in orders.

What they're saying: “Everything is a mess, and we are seeing wide-scale shortages," one appliance and electrical equipment maker said.

Plus: Factories have increasingly reported paying more for materials, with the latest data showing manufacturers paying the most since 2008.

What's going on: Companies are "not able to have as many people at the sawmills or as many people in the foundries making steel" because of COVID-19 work restrictions, leading to manufacturers' shortages, Ben Ayers, an economist at Nationwide, tells Axios.

What to watch: The problems come as the Biden administration prioritizes revitalizing the sector and boosting jobs — promises made by his predecessor.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 6 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.