Increased demand for motors in the first quarter of 2013 drove NEMA’s Motors Shipments Index, up by 18.6% from the previous quarter to the highest reading in the history of this index. This improvement follows on the heels of a 7.4% gain posted in the fourth quarter of 2012. Since bottoming out in the second quarter of 2009, during the depths of the Great Recession, the index has climbed a cumulative 57%. Growth in the fractional horsepower segment of the motors market rebounded strongly in the first quarter while integral horsepower motor shipments recorded a moderate gain after falling for two consecutive quarters. The inflation adjusted dollar value of fractional horsepower motors shipments more than doubled between the second quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2013. Moreover, the value of integral horsepower motors shipments increased 12% over the same period.
The jump in the motors shipments index coincided with accelerated manufacturing activity in the first quarter of 2013. However, manufacturing sector industrial production lost momentum moving into the second quarter as output declined 0.3% in March and 0.4% in April. Still, the forward-looking ISM manufacturing index for new orders hovered above the break-even mark of 50 on average for March and April. Industrial production is forecasted to advance 2.3% year-over-year for 2013, before picking up to the upper 2% range in 2014 amidst improved domestic and global demand.