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ISM: Healthy Expansion of Manufacturing Activity in July

The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) was up strongly in July, building on the healthy gains seen in June. The headline PMI figure rose from 55.3 in June to 57.1 in July, its highest level since November. After declining sharply in January, sentiment has gradually moved higher each month, with the sector rebounding from winter-related disruptions and slow growth in the first quarter of this year. These findings are largely consistent with other indicators showing manufacturers cautiously optimistic about the next six months.

Production, in particular, appears to have recovered back to the stronger expansionary levels seen in the second half of last year. The index for production increased from 60.0 to 61.2, and it was the third straight month with the measure at 60 or greater. Note that output and sales growth both exceeded 60 for five consecutive months in 2013 (August to December) before that streak ended with weather factors in January. The pace of other components were also higher in July, including new orders (up from 58.9 to 63.4), supplier deliveries (up from 51.9 to 54.1) and employment (up from 52.8 to 58.2). The latter figure hopefully indicates positive news on hiring moving forward.

The sample comments echo the positive news seen in the data, but they also hint of possible weaknesses ahead. A transportation executive said, “Business is still very good and we are very optimistic for the rest of the year.” Yet, others are more restrained in their sales outlook, and world events are noted as possible risks to growth. For instance, a chemical manufacturer added, “Geopolitics still present a considerable risk as well as the European market.” Beyond these points, wage pressures are noted, with a petroleum and coal products respondent citing the need for salary increases “due to market competition and shortages in certain specialty skills.”

Along these lines, the ISM data also show both continued pricing pressures and an easing in export sales growth. The index for raw material costs edged higher (up from 58.0 to 59.5), with this indicator averaging 59.1 through the first seven months of 2014. That indicates an acceleration in input costs over the average of 53.8 seen for all of 2013, and it mirrors other inflation data. Regarding trade, the growth rates for exports (down from 54.5 to 53.0) and imports (down from 57.0 to 52.0) were both lower, and we have seen weaker international sales growth year-to-date in other data, as well.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. 

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Personal Income and Spending Rose Modestly in June

The Bureau of Economic Analysis said that personal income and spending both increased by 0.4 percent in June, building on the gains seen in May. Regarding compensation, personal income has risen for sixth straight months, or every month so far in 2014. Since December, personal income was up 3.0 percent, with 3.9 percent growth over the past 12 months. For manufacturers, total wages and salaries increased from $781.8 billion in May to $786.1 billion in June. Manufacturing wages and salaries have moved up from averages of $734.4 billion and $747.6 billion in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Meanwhile, personal spending has expanded for five straight months, rebounding from winter-related softness in January. Since January, personal spending has risen by 2.2 percent, with year-over-year growth of 4.0 percent. That suggests that Americans continue to spend at a decent pace, even if their purchase decisions remain selective and perhaps still cautious. In June, growth in durable goods spending (up 0.5 percent) was outstripped by strong gains in nondurable goods purchases (up 1.0 percent).

The savings rate was unchanged at 5.3 percent. That represents an increase from the 4.1 percent pace observed in December, and in general, we have seen a slightly higher saving rate through the first six months of 2014 (averaging 5.1 percent) than what was observed for all of 2013 (4.9 percent).

In other news, the personal consumption expenditure (PCE) deflator found that pricing pressures eased somewhat in June, even as prices remained higher than earlier in the year. The year-over-year pace of consumer goods prices dropped from 1.9 percent to 1.7 percent, but this still represented an increase from the 1.0 percent noted in February. Core inflation, which excludes food and energy costs, have grown 1.6 percent over the past 12 months, down from 1.7 percent. Energy costs were up 1.7 percent in June, led by increased petroleum prices stemming from geopolitical events in the Middle East.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. 

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Manufacturers Add 28,000 Workers in July, Averaging 22,000 Over the Past Three Months

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that manufacturers added 28,000 workers on net in July, its fastest pace in eight months. There were also revisions to May and June data, adding another 11,000 to the bottom line. Overall, these data confirm two things that we have noticed in prior reports. First, hiring and manufacturing activity have largely rebounded from weaknesses earlier in the year. Indeed, average employment growth was 9,600 from December to April, but that was edged up to 22,000 over the past three months (May to July).

Second, total hiring has fared pretty well since the third quarter of last year – despite the winter disruptions – with the sector averaging almost 15,000 per month since August. This suggests that the pickup in demand and output seen in other indicators has led to increased hiring. Since the end of the 2009, manufacturers have created 683,000 new workers on net, or 7.3 percent of all nonfarm payrolls added over that time frame.

The July manufacturing job gains mostly resided in the durable goods sectors, which added 30,000 employees for the month. In contrast, nondurable goods firms shed 2,000 workers. The largest employment gains were in transportation equipment (up 19,200, with 14,600 coming from motor vehicles and parts), furniture and related products (up 3,200), fabricated metal products (up 2,600), primary metals (up 1,700) and computer and electronic products (up 1,600).

In contrast, food manufacturing (down 3,600), nonmetallic mineral products (down 1,400), paper and paper products (down 1,100), electrical equipment and appliances (down 1,000) and printing and related support activities (down 1,000) were among the sectors with declining employment in July.

Despite the increase in employment, the average number of hours worked and payroll data for manufacturers both moved down slightly. Manufacturing employees worked an average of 40.9 hours per week in July, with 3.4 hours of overtime. This was down from 41.4 hours and 3.5 hours, respectively. In addition, average weekly earnings dropped from $1,020.92 to $1,018.00. Nonetheless, earnings have generally moved higher, rising 2.7 percent year-over-year from $991.45 in July 2013.

Meanwhile, nonfarm payrolls increased by 209,000 employees in July, the sixth straight month with the economy creating at least 200,000 workers. Since January, nonfarm payrolls have increased by an average of 244,167 per month, which represents progress from the 194,250 average seen for all of 2013.

Still, the unemployment rate rose from 6.1 percent in June to 6.2 percent in July as more Americans came back into the labor market. The participation rate rose marginally, up from 62.8 percent to 62.9 percent. It continues to remains near 30-year lows. In addition, the labor market continues to have sufficient “slack” in it, with part-time employment for economic reasons up from 7.27 million in May to 7.51 million in July.

In conclusion, today’s jobs numbers were positive, particularly for manufacturers, but not overwhelmingly so. Nonfarm payroll growth was below consensus estimates, but it also achieved its sixth consecutive monthly increase of at least 200,000 net new workers. That represents progress, and yet, behind the scenes, we still get a sense that job gains could have been greater. The labor market continues to have too many people who are either underemployed or employed part-time, and the participation rate remains at historic lows.

Even in manufacturing, while we have seen improvements from earlier in the year, one could easily make the case that hiring should be more broad-based. For instance, the auto sector alone accounted for over half of July’s job gains, and the nondurable goods sector continues to struggle. Ideally, we would like to see all sectors within manufacturing experience job gains moving forward.

However, manufacturers continue to express a palpable sense of frustration both with the slowness of economic growth and with the political process. Washington’s burdensome regulatory, tax and health care policies still loom large in business decisions, particularly for the smallest manufacturers. In addition, manufacturers continue to wait on Congress to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank, which serves as a critical tool for job creation and economic growth for small, medium and large manufacturers.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. 

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Manufacturing Wages and Salaries Rose at Their Fastest Pace since 2001 in the Second Quarter

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest employer costs data, showing wage pressures picking up in the second quarter. Manufacturing wages and salaries increased 3.4 percent at the annual rate in the second quarter, doubling the 1.7 percent pace observed in the first quarter. This was the fastest pace for manufacturing wage and salary growth since the fourth quarter of 2001, or 12½ years ago.

On a year-over-year basis, manufacturing wages and salaries have increased 2.2 percent, up from 2.0 percent in the prior quarter. As such, it suggests that overall wages in the sector have risen at a mostly modest pace over the past 12 months, but that pace has definitely accelerated of late. Given that inflationary pressures have also picked up, particularly for energy and food costs, the Federal Reserve will likely keep a close eye on what happens with wage growth moving forward.

Total compensation for manufacturers increased 2.0 percent at the annual rate, with 2.1 percent growth year-over-year. Compensation costs for manufacturers has also picked up so far in 2014, rising from a 1.8 percent year-over-year rate in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Still, the second quarter data benefited from a slower pace of growth for benefits, up just 0.3 percent at the annual rate. However, this followed a hefty 3.8 percent annualized jump in the first quarter, which was more than likely influenced by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and higher health insurance costs. On a year-over-year basis, manufacturing benefit costs were up 1.9 percent, accelerating from 1.3 percent growth in the fourth quarter.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. 

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Real GDP Rebounded Strongly in the Second Quarter; Up 0.9 Percent in the First Half of 2014

The U.S. economy grew strongly in the second quarter, up 4.0 percent and recovering from a very disappointing first quarter. With that said, the first quarter data was revised again, improving slightly from a decline of 2.9 percent to a decline of 2.1 percent. The second quarter data were higher than the consensus estimates and mostly reflected an economy that has rebounded from weaknesses earlier in the year, including winter disruptions. Still, real GDP growth in the first half of 2014 was soft overall, increasing just 0.9 percent.

Consumer and business spending were strengths in the second quarter. This is perhaps not a surprise given the softness seen in the first quarter and data released since then suggesting recovering levels of activity. On the consumer side, goods spending rose an annualized 6.2 percent in the second quarter, its fastest pace since the fourth quarter of 2010 but also reflecting a bounce-back from the 1.0 percent rate of the first quarter (when winter storms prevented people from going to the stores). Personal consumption added 1.69 percentage points to real GDP, with 1.38 percent stemming from goods spending.

Businesses provided the biggest boost to the economy in the second quarter, with higher levels of investment for structures, equipment and intellectual property. Housing was also a positive for the first time in three quarters. Gross private domestic investment added 2.57 percentage points to real GDP, rebounding from the 1.13 percent drag seen in the prior quarter. Inventory spending alone contributed 1.66 percentage points to the bottom line as firms restocked their shelves after letting them deplete in the previous two quarters. Indeed, inventory spending was so strong that it could slow the growth rate in the third quarter a bit.

Government spending added 0.30 percentage points to growth, but reduced defense spending was a drag at the federal level. State and local government investments returned to being a positive contributor to growth.

Export growth remained the primary weakness in the economy, subtracting from real GDP for the second straight quarter. While goods exports increased 2.3 percent at the annual rate for the quarter, this was more than outstripped by the 13.3 percent gain seen in goods imports. As a result, net exports subtracted 0.61 percentage points from real GDP in the second quarter.

Overall, the news was positive, with healthy increases in consumer and business spending helping to lift the economy in the second quarter. This suggests that we have begun to move beyond the softness seen in the disappointing first quarter. Yet, we also cannot help but note that 2014 has started off much weaker than we would have liked, with real GDP increasing by less than 1 percent in the first half of the year. While manufacturers remain mostly upbeat about the second half, it means that real GDP will once again settle in for an average of around 2 percent this year. That is not at all what we were thinking at the start of the year.

Also, the trade data suggest that we need to do more to increase manufactured goods exports. We have seen export growth continue to decelerate so far this year. This means that policymakers should consider policies that will aid manufacturers as they seek new markets. First and foremost, it means that we need to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. (See our study released yesterday that shows the magnitude of foreign export credit activity overseas.). As a result, the United States would forfeit billions of dollars of export opportunities if we failed to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank by September 30.  The weak U.S. export data also mean that we need the President and Congress to work together expeditiously to enact new Trade Promotion Authority legislation that is critical to enable the United States to negotiate comprehensive and high-standard agreements in Europe and the Asia Pacific and elsewhere, which will boost U.S. manufacturing exports.

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ADP: Manufacturers Added 3,000 Workers in July

Automatic Data Processing (ADP) said that manufacturers continued to add workers in July, but at a slower pace than the month before. The manufacturing sector created 3,000 net new workers in July, down from 10,000 in June. In the ADP’s analysis, the sector has hired an average of 6,000 additional workers each month since January. Note that this is lower than the roughly 9,000-worker average seen in the official year-to-date government data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In the larger economy, nonfarm private businesses added 218,000 employees on net in July. This was down from 281,000 in June, but it was also the fourth straight month with employment growth exceeding 200,000. The year-to-date average is 204,000, an improvement from the 187,000 average seen for all of 2013.

In July, the largest job gains were seen in the professional and business services (up 61,000); trade, transportation and utilities (up 52,000); construction (up 12,000); and financial activities (up 9,000). Small and medium-sized businesses (e.g., those with less than 500 employees) contributed nearly 81 percent of the net new jobs.

On Friday, we will new employment figures from BLS, and I would expect roughly 225,000 nonfarm payroll workers and around additional 10,000 manufacturing workers.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. 

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Manufacturers in Texas Note Accelerated Activity in July

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said that manufacturing activity accelerated in July, continuing to rebound from softer levels earlier in the year. The composite index of general business activity rose from 11.4 in June to 12.7 in July. It was the 14th consecutive month of expanding levels of activity; however, manufacturers reported a near-stagnant pace in February. In July, the underlying data were mostly higher across-the-board, including the pace of growth for new orders (up from 6.5 to 13.0), production (up from 15.5 to 19.1), shipments (up from 10.3 to 22.8), capacity utilization (up from 9.2 to 18.0) and capital expenditures (up from 12.7 to 13.3).

With that said, employment growth (down from 13.1 to 11.4) eased slightly, one of the few areas that decelerated in the month. Still, hiring has generally improved from where it was two months ago, with the index up from 2.9 in May. Moreover, one-quarter of respondents to the Dallas Fed survey said that they had added workers in July, with just 13.6 percent suggesting that employment was declining for their company. In addition, the average number of hours worked (up from 4.7 to 6.3) increased somewhat.

Along those lines, a fabricated metal manufacturer noted difficulties in attracting and retaining workers in the sample comments. They wrote, “Skilled employee turnover is getting out of control. There are too many employers chasing too few skilled workers.” Other commenters spoke about the pickup in demand seen in July, with one computer and electronics product respondent adding, “The second quarter was a sold quarter from start to finish….”

Looking ahead six months, Texas manufacturers remain positive about future levels of activity. At least 45 percent of those taking the survey expect sales, production, and shipments to increase over the coming months, with just single-digit percentages anticipating declines. Beyond that, 31.5 percent plan to bring on new workers, and one-quarter are expecting to increase their capital expenditures. The one downside would be the forecast of higher raw material costs moving forward, with a pickup in pricing pressures. In all, 40.7 percent predict increased producer prices in the coming months, with just 6.5 percent expecting declines.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. 

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Monday Economic Report – July 28, 2014

Here is the summary for this week’s Monday Economic Report:

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) released its latest World Economic Outlook last week. The report reflected slower growth rates in the United States and elsewhere for 2014 mostly because of disappointing figures during the first half of the year. The IMF now predicts that U.S. real GDP will grow 1.7 percent in 2014, down from the 2.8 percent forecast in April. Much of this downgrade stemmed from the dismal 2.9 percent decline in real GDP in the first quarter, with output contracting for the first time in three years. At the same time, the manufacturing sector provided a positive contribution to growth in the first quarter, according to new data, despite bleakness in other areas. Fortunately, manufacturers are more upbeat about activity during the second half of this year and for next year. The IMF’s outlook for 2015 is for real GDP growth of 3.0 percent in the United States, which is in line with other predictions.

News regarding manufacturing activity was mostly positive last week, with surveys from the Kansas City and Richmond Federal Reserve Banks both reflecting a pickup in shipments and employment in July. New orders continued to grow at a moderate pace in each region, and respondents were mostly upbeat about sales and production over the next six months. Nonetheless, raw material costs have accelerated a bit in the Richmond district, and new export orders have contracted in eight of the past 12 months in the Kansas City district. Meanwhile, new durable goods orders rebounded in June, with year-to-date growth at a reasonably healthy rate of 4.4 percent. This indicates that the sector has recovered for the most part from winter-related softness, even if some components, such as motor vehicle sales, were lower for the month. Similarly, the Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) reflected relatively strong growth in sales and output for the sector despite some easing in the headline number in July.

Overseas, the data indicate that the Chinese economy has continued to stabilize from weakness in the first five months of the year. The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing PMI expanded for the second straight month in July, with the pace of activity up for new orders, exports and output. The sales pace was the fastest since January 2011, suggesting that recent measures taken by the Chinese government to stimulate growth have had a positive impact. Likewise, Japanese manufacturers also reported expanding levels of sentiment for two consecutive months, but activity decelerated overall and output stagnated. Export sales from Japan, on the other hand, grew. In other news, the European manufacturing sector made marginal progress in July, particularly for production and exports, and the Eurozone has now expanded for 13 straight months. Yet, growth varied from country to country. For instance, German manufacturing activity picked up in July, while the French economy continued to contract.

The other highlights last week centered on housing and pricing. The housing market remains weaker than we would like, as illustrated by the sharp drop in new home sales in June. Still, the June figure was consistent with the annual paces in March and April, with May’s sales numbers appearing to be an outlier. With the slower pace of sales, inventories of homes have increased. In contrast, existing home sales improved for the third straight month, with some progress in the second quarter relative to the softer first quarter. Even in the existing home sales release, however, there were some discouraging findings, including the fact that sales remain below where they were last year and that first-time homebuyers are still having difficulties making purchases. Meanwhile, on the inflation front, the consumer price index increased in June, led by higher gasoline costs. Yet, pricing pressures remain mostly in check, with core inflation up 1.9 percent over the past 12 months.

This week, the focus will be on second-quarter GDP and jobs. The expectation is that output will rebound from the drop in the first quarter, with consensus forecasts ranging from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent growth. My view is that real GDP in the second quarter should exceed 3.0 percent. Regarding hiring, manufacturers have added, on average, more than 12,500 each month since August, and I would anticipate seeing a comparable figure for July. Nonfarm payrolls should increase by at least the roughly 230,000 average so far in 2014. Other items to look for this week include manufacturing survey results from the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank and the latest numbers for construction spending, consumer sentiment, employment costs and personal income and spending.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.

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In an Otherwise Bleak First Quarter, Manufacturers Made a Positive Contribution to Growth

The Bureau of Economic Analysis said that manufacturers added 0.30 percentage points to real GDP in the first quarter of 2014. Nondurable goods output provided 0.86 percent to growth; whereas, durable goods activity subtracted 0.57 percent. Indeed, winter weather and other factors helped to lead the country to its first quarterly contraction in real GDP in three years, with output down a very disappointing 2.9 percent.

Therefore, we can say that manufacturers made a positive contribution to growth overall in an otherwise bleak first quarter. Real value-added from manufacturing increased 2.1 percent in the first quarter, its slowest growth rate in five quarters and below the 3.1 percent pace seen in all of 2013. Yet, at least it was positive. Sectors with the largest quarterly declines in real value-added in the first quarter included:

  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (down 31.0 percent)
  • Utilities (down 16.4 percent)
  • Construction (down 8.9 percent)
  • Wholesale trade (down 8.7 percent)
  • Professional and business services (down 6.4 percent)
  • Mining (down 5.6 percent)
  • Transportation and warehousing (down 4.6 percent)
  • Educational services, health care and social assistance (down 3.0 percent)
  • Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing (down 2.9 percent)

With that said, value-added in manufacturing dropped from $2.14 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2013 to $2.09 trillion in the first quarter of 2014. Manufacturing accounted for 12.3 percent of GDP in the first quarter, down from 12.5 percent in the prior quarter.

This suggests that the increase in the “real” measure was influenced by price changes. Indeed, the price index for value-added output in manufacturing fell by an annualized 10.3 percent in the first quarter. Despite the quarterly decline, value-added in manufacturing has continued to move higher in the longer term, up from $2.05 trillion in the first quarter of 2013.

Next week, we will get our first look at real GDP growth for the second quarter of 2014. The expectation is that output will rebound from the 2.9 percent drop in the first quarter, with consensus forecasts ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 percent growth. My view is that real GDP in the second quarter should exceed 3.0 percent, but we will see next Wednesday.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. 

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New Durable Goods Orders Increased 0.7 Percent in June, Rebounding from May’s Decline

The Census Bureau said that new durable goods orders increased 0.7 percent in June, rebounding from a 1.0 percent decline in May. This suggests that durable goods sales have continued to recover from winter-related softness in December and January, and it was mostly in-line with consensus estimates. Through the first six months of this year, new durable goods orders have risen 4.4 percent, which indicates reasonably healthy growth year-to-date.

Unlike previous reports, transportation orders did not skew the data by much, with the sector having sales growth of 0.6 percent for the month. If you were to exclude transportation, June’s new durable goods orders would have increased by 0.8 percent, with a year-to-date gain of 4.4 percent.

The underlying sector-by-sector data were mostly positive. The largest increases were observed in defense aircraft and parts (up 15.3 percent), nondefense aircraft and parts (up 8.2 percent), machinery (up 2.4 percent), primary metals (up 0.9 percent) and computers and electronic products (up 0.8 percent). On the other hand, motor vehicles and parts (down 2.1 percent), which have been a bright spot in general of late, were a drag on growth in June. Year-to-date, motor vehicle and parts orders have increased 2.2 percent.

Meanwhile, durable goods shipments were up a more-paltry 0.1 percent in June, offsetting the 0.1 percent decrease in May. Excluding transportation (which was up 0.7 percent, mainly on nondefense aircraft), durable goods shipments would have fallen by 0.1 percent. This indicates that shipments activity was weaker than the headline figure suggests. In fact, the data were mixed. Increased shipments for communications equipment (up 3.3 percent), primary metals (up 0.8 percent) and fabricated metal products (up 0.7 percent) were largely counterbalanced by declines in defense aircraft and parts (down 2.3 percent), motor vehicles and parts (down 2.0 percent) and machinery (down 2.0 percent).

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. 

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