• Factory Activity Growth Strengthens, All PwC Employees Can Work Remotely, Southeast Ports Expanding

    Factory activity increased in September for the second consecutive month. (Getty Images)
    Factory activity increased in September for the second consecutive month. (Getty Images)

    By Richard Lawson
    CoStar News
    Factory Activity Growth Strengthens

    U.S. factory activity picked up in September even as manufacturers struggle with supply chain problems.
    The Institute of Supply Management’s monthly index registered a reading of 61.1% in September, a 1.2 percentage increase from August. The wood products sector was the only one to show slower growth among the 18 industry sectors the institute tracks.

    A reading above 50% marks growth. The index’s latest reading marks 16 consecutive months above 50%. It’s the second consecutive monthly increase. Activity contracted sharply in April 2020 as the pandemic took hold and many factories curtailed production or temporarily shut down to improve the safety of employees.

    “Congestion at ports in China and the U.S. continues to be a headwind, as transportation networks remain stressed,” Timothy Fiore, chair of the institute’s manufacturing survey committee, said in a statement. Difficulties in hiring along with rising costs for raw materials are posing challenges for manufacturers, according to the ISM report. Still, Fiore said, that “demand remains at strong levels, despite increasing prices.”

    All PwC Employees Can Work Remotely

    The accounting and consulting firm PwC reportedly is allowing all 40,000 of its client services employees to work remotely from anywhere, joining other companies that are shifting away from requiring employees to work full-time in the office.

    Yolanda Seals-Coffield, the firm’s deputy people leader, told Reuters that PwC “learned a ton through the pandemic, and working virtually, as we think about the evolution of flexibility, is a natural next step.”
    Employees that don’t meet clients face-to-face already had the remote option.

    PwC told employees last week that the firm was instituting the policy to better attract and retain talent, according to a memo Reuters cited. The catch, however, for those choosing to work remotely is that their pay would be decreased if they choose to live in a less costly city.

    JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Ford Motor Co., Deloitte, State Farm and a host of others have instituted some form of hybrid work model as a result of lessons learning during the pandemic. PwC is one of the largest companies to offer the full workforce the option of being remote.

    Southeast Ports Expanding Capacity

    Two Southeast ports are expanding their capacity to handle more cargo as both have set records for volume this year with the shipping network trying to catch up amid a pandemic disruption. The Georgia Ports Authority approved spending more than $34 million to expand the Port of Savannah’s ability to handle an additional 1.6 million 20-foot equivalent container units, or TEUs. Some of that new capacity will be ready by December.

    In all, various developments at the port will add 230 acres of container handling space by some time in 2023. The decision comes after the second busiest August in the port’s history. Down the Atlantic coast, the Jacksonville Port Authority last week approved a $48.8 million contract to expand a terminal on Blount Island to handle more containers. It is part of a bigger plan to increase the terminal’s ability to handle 150% more volume by 2024.

    In May, the port set a record for volume. The port authority also is in the process of deepening the channel to allow simultaneous handling of two post-Panamax container ships, which are vessels too large to pass through the Panama Canal.

    Source: CoStar Group, www.costar.com