If you are looking for evidence of healthy global economic activity in manufacturing, one strong indicator is a surge in South Korean semiconductor exports. In fact, early indicators for January from Seoul show the first monthly gain in chips exports from Korea in more than a year. According to an article in Bloomberg Technology, the Korean numbers offer “another sign that a recovery in global manufacturing is picking up momentum.”

According to the Korean Customs Service, semiconductor shipments from the first 20 days of the year show an increase of nearly nine percent from January 2019, while overall exports showed their smallest decline—0.2 percent—in more than a year.

This closely-watched economic indicator is one of the early barometers of global demand given the role that semiconductor plays in all aspects of manufacturing and impact on both local economies and job creation. According to Bloomberg, the chip numbers “reinforce a view that global manufacturing is starting 2020 on firmer footing.” Samsung Electronics, one the world’s leading suppliers of semiconductors as well as flat screen television, consumer laptops, and mobile devices, this month posted earnings that surpassed estimates as global prices of memory chips began to return to higher levels.

Semiconductors continue to be the leading export for Korea, with outbound shipments last year approaching the $94 billion mark, and accounting for more than 17 percent of the nation’s overall exports. That percent is down from a year ago because of soft market prices for semiconductor chips.

The United States was the second largest importer of Korean goods, with more than $73 billion worth of Korean goods delivered to the U.S. last year. That trails China, which once again was the single largest recipient of Korean exports.