Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/02/2012 09:46:02 AM PDT

The Inland Empire’ manufacturing sector has grown for three straight months, according to a Cal State San Bernardino survey. Shown here are Purchasing Managers Index scores from the past six months. Any number greàter than 50 signifies growth.

Inland Empire manufacturers “registered an impressive gain” in March as firms reported increases in production, new orders and even hiring.

The survey results, released Monday, show that manufacturing activity in San Bernardino and Riverside counties has been on the rise throughout the first quarter of 2012.

What’s more, manufacturers who responded to a Cal State San Bernardino survey reported that March was a particularly healthy month for their businesses.

Last month’s robust pace of business followed moderate growth over the previous two months, not to mention a sluggish end to 2011 when Inland Empire manufacturing was on the verge of contracting.

“It (growth) is sustained in the sense that it’s going on at a weak rate of growth, but all the signals are increasing,” said Shel Bockman, of the San Bernardino campus’ Institute of Applied Research and a co-author of the Inland Empire Report on Business.

Bockman became more enthusiastic over the course of a telephone interview, noting that local manufacturers’ views seem to mirror increasing optimism in other parts of the country and saying Monday’s data is “one of the best reports ever” in the history of the campus’ manufacturing survey.

The Institute for Applied Research surveys purchasing managers at roughly 30 San Bernardino and Riverside county manufacturing firms for its monthly survey.

Researchers take managers’ responses to calculate a Purchasing Manager’s Index for the two-county area. Any number above 50 signifies growth, and in March, the index jumped from 53.5 to 60.8.

Also in March, the survey’s hiring index, reached 63, its highest point since May 2005.

The index cannot be used to generate numbers on how many people have actually been hired, but analysis from Los Angeles-based Beacon Economics shows San Bernardino and Riverside county manufacturers hired roughly 2,200 people from November to February.

“I would say as of November, things really started making a turn for the better,” said Derek Dennis, president of Solar Atmospheres California. “Every month seems to be getting better and better.”

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