U.S. manufacturing shrank in November to its weakest level since July 2009, the first month after the Great Recession supposedly ended, a survey released on Monday shows.

The Institute for Supply Management announced today that its index of manufacturing conditions fell to a reading of 49.5, down from 51.7 in October.

“Any reading above 50 signals expansion, while readings below 50 indicate contraction. Manufacturing grew in October for only the second time since May,” the Associated Press notes.

But that’s not all.

“Also, as most know, a sub-50 print indicates a contraction in the manufacturing space, usually a precursor to overall recession,” writers at Zero Hedge note.

“Particular data points of note: Employment down from 52.1 to 48.4; New Orders slide from 54.2 to 50.3, and in the worst news for GDP Exports declined, Imports rose and Inventories plunged — which was to be expected after a huge inventory build up in Q3 pushed GDP much higher in the period,” they add.

What do all these data points possibly indicate?

“[M]ore downward GDP recessions on today’s ugly data,” the Hedge notes.

Here’s a chart illustrating the decline in manufacturing:

U.S. Manufacturing Shrinks in November, Lowest Point in Three Years

Zero Hedge

The Associated Press argues that the contraction can be blamed on concerns about the “fiscal cliff,” a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that will go into effect next year unless Congress comes up with a budget plan.

“Worries about the fiscal cliff have led many companies to pull back this year on purchases of machinery and equipment, which signal investment plans. The decline could slow economic growth and hold back hiring in the October-December quarter,” the AP claims.

U.S. consumers also dialed back on their spending last month while their income remained flat. Considering the fact that consumer spending drives about 70 percent of the economy, the decline probably didn’t help anything.

Unsurprisingly, between “fiscal cliff” worries and a decline in consumer spending, ISM survey respondents don’t sound very optimistic about the U.S.’ economic future:

  • “Conditions still appear to be positive for continued growth in sales.” (Machinery)
  • “Business is steady, but not much more than that. We are in a lull.” (Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products)
  • “The principle business conditions that will affect the company over the next three or four quarters will be the U.S. federal government tax and budgetary policies; the impact of those policies is not yet clear.” (Petroleum & Coal Products)
  • “Differences between first half of year and remaining half are very dramatic, growing to a peak in the middle of the year with a gradual decline since.” (Plastics & Rubber Products)
  • “Seeing a slowdown in request for quote activity.” (Computer & Electronic Products)
  • “The fiscal cliff is the big worry right now. We will not look toward any type of expansion until this is addressed; if the program that is put in place is more taxes and big spending cuts — which will push us toward recession — forget it.” (Fabricated Metal Products)
  • “Seeing a slowdown in demand across markets.” (Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components)
  • “Economy is very sluggish. Production is down and orders have slowed considerably from Q1.” (Transportation Equipment)
  • “East Coast storms delayed some shipments.” (Primary Metals)
  • “Global economic uncertainty still seems to be sticking around which is not necessarily making things worse, but it is also not making things better from a demand standpoint.” (Chemical Products)

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