First-quarter 2019 results from IPC’s Pulse of the Electronics Industry global data service shows an electronics industry that is still riding the crest of the current growth cycle, despite cooling enthusiasm in some regions and industry segments.
The 167 participating companies worldwide reported average quarterly sales growth of 8.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. Their average forecast for first-quarter 2019 sales growth was a bullish 9.8 percent worldwide.
The industry’s outlook on the current direction of the business environment worldwide rebounded in the first quarter of 2019 after scores edged downward in the last three quarters of 2018, although they remained positive all year. Most participating companies reported the current direction for sales, orders, order backlogs and profit margins as moving in a positive direction. Increasing labor and materials costs and recruiting challenges were the main factors negatively affecting the current-state score.
The companies’ outlook for the next six months also strengthened in the first quarter of 2019. Growth in sales, production, number of full-time employees, markets, capital investment and exports contributed to the strong six-month outlook. The 12-month business outlook also strengthened in the first quarter, with 88 percent of responding companies indicating a positive outlook.
The strong current-state score and six-month outlook were driven by results from companies in the Americas and global businesses. Asia and Europe had negative current-state scores. Their six-month outlook was positive, but weaker than the outlook for companies in the Americas and global businesses. Among the industry segments, the current-state score was strongest for OEMs and weakest for materials suppliers, although all industry segments indicated positive current-state scores in the first quarter of 2019.
Respondents comment every quarter on the trends or conditions that are driving or limiting their business growth. The comments reveal that component shortages have begun to ease, while there is growing concern about the shortage of qualified workers as the major factor limiting growth. Workforce issues now appear to be the biggest concern in all regions and segments of the industry, followed by tariffs and trade disruptions.