The electrical manufacturing industry continues to give conflicting signs of the health of the nation’s economy. According to the NEMA Industrial Control Business Indices, shipments of industrial controls have finally begun to turn around.

Prior to the first quarter of this year, the Primary Industrial Control index had fallen in each period for seven of the nine previous quarters; the first quarter 2002 index gained 7% over its fourth quarter level, and the second quarter index improved another 8%. This index represents U.S. orders for motor starters, contactors, terminal blocks, control circuit devices, motor control centers, and other industrial control devices.

During the last two quarters, the Primary Industrial Control and Adjustable Speed Drives index also demonstrated a slight recovery of 7%. This index provides a broader measure of the industrial control marketplace.

Despite the recent positive signs, Steve Wilcox, NEMA’s director of economics, points out that the numbers can be deceiving. “The good news it that the decline in shipment represented in the primary index appears to have bottomed out,” he says. “The downside is that after having fallen so far and for so long, the rebound has not yet turned year-over-year growth positive. Even with the improved level of the first and second quarters, year-over-year growth was –22% and –3%, respectively.”

The NEMA Industrial Control Business indices will be issued by the organization quarterly in two versions.