Economic activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector contracted in March amid mounting COVID-19 fallout, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported Wednesday.
The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) stood at 49.1 percent, down 1 percentage point from the February reading.
Any reading below 50 percent indicates the manufacturing sector is generally contracting. The PMI contracted for five straight months from August to December last year amid U.S.-China trade tensions.
"Comments from the panel were negative regarding the near-term outlook, with sentiment clearly impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and energy market volatility," Timothy Fiore, chair of the ISM's manufacturing business survey committee, said in a statement.
"The PMI returned to contraction territory, and with a negative trajectory," Fiore said.
A business executive from machinery industry said, "COVID-19 has caused a 30-percent reduction in productivity in our factory."
"COVID-19's spread in the U.S. may start impacting our domestic business," said an executive from fabricated metal products industry. "As for Asian suppliers, they are starting to get back up to speed."
An executive from food, beverage & tobacco products, however, said that "we are experiencing a record number of orders due to COVID-19."
The United States has reported more than 190,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 4,100 death as of Wednesday noon, according to a data tracking tool developed by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.