Tag: hiring

Dallas Fed: Manufacturing Activity Picked Up in September

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said that manufacturing activity picked up in September. The composite index of general business activity increased from 7.1 in August to 10.8 in September, and in general, the data continue to show stronger growth since being nearly stagnant in February. In fact, the paces for production (up from 6.8 to 17.6), capacity utilization (up from 3.6 to 20.2) and shipments (up from 6.4 to 15.9) were all up strongly in September, which was encouraging.

At the same time, there were also measures that expanding at a less-robust pace. New orders (up from 2.2 to 7.5) rose modestly, but with somewhat less gusto than the production figures. Just over one-quarter of those taking the survey said that their sales had increased in September, with 18.4 percent noting declines and 55.7 percent saying that orders were unchanged. Along those lines, hiring (down from 11.1 to 10.6) and capital spending (down from 6.6 to 4.4) both eased slightly, even as they both continued to reflect modest expansion.

The sample comments tend to reflect this nuanced view of the current economic environment, noting both strengths and some challenges. For instance, a chemical manufacturer said, “Our increased business activity is based on orders placed this time last year. We see some softening, especially in demand from Europe and China, while the U.S. remains strong.” Other concerns include cautious consumer behavior and wage and price pressures. A food manufacturer noted, for example, “We remain concerned that our consumers remain under serious financial pressure.” Indeed, where we have seen pricing pressures this year, it has largely been in the food category, with higher costs for meats, eggs, dairy and produce.

Manufacturers in the Dallas Fed region were mostly positive in September about the next six months, albeit less so than in August. The forward-looking measure of business activity dropped from 18.7 to 12.1. With that said, over 40 percent of respondents expect higher levels of production,  new orders, and shipments in the coming months, with nearly 30 percent planning to add new workers and 35.7 percent predicting increased capital spending. The one negative remains elevated pricing pressures, with 45.5 percent of those taking the survey seeing higher input costs over the next six months versus 9.1 predicted lower costs.

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

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Monday Economic Report – September 29, 2014

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

The U.S. economy grew an annualized 4.6 percent in the second quarter of this year, its fastest pace since the fourth quarter of 2011. Consumer and business spending were the big bright spots in the real GDP report, with strong rebounds after softness in the first quarter. This latest revision reflected improved nonresidential fixed investment and goods exports data relative to prior estimates. At the same time, it is hard to forget that real GDP fell by 2.1 percent in the first quarter, with growth in the first half of 2014 expanding by a frustratingly slow 1.2 percent. Moving forward, manufacturers remain mostly upbeat. For instance, the Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) held firm at 57.9, its fastest pace since May 2010.

I estimate real GDP growth of 3.3 percent for the third quarter, which ends this week. Nonetheless, there are a number of downside risks, and business leaders and the public remain tentative in their optimism.

Along those lines, regional surveys from the Kansas City and Richmond Federal Reserve Banks continued to show expanding activity levels in their districts. The Richmond release found that activity has now grown for six straight months since winter-related contractions earlier in the year. It also reflected an uptick in production and demand, with the pace of hiring accelerating to its highest level since December 2010. All of this was encouraging. In the Kansas City district, manufacturers remained mostly positive, with more than half of respondents expecting increased production and shipments in the next six months. Among the issues cited in the Kansas City survey, manufacturers noted persistent challenges in attracting and retaining skilled workers. Other sample comments mentioned rising pricing pressures, both for wages and raw materials.

Turning to the global economy, the HSBC Flash China Manufacturing PMI edged slightly higher, up from 50.2 in August to 50.5 in September. This marked the fourth consecutive month with expanding manufacturing activity, improving from contractions in the first five months of the year. Yet, even with some signs of stabilization in China in recent data, the country is expected to continue to decelerate in its growth rates moving forward, something that it continues to grapple with. Similarly, the European Central Bank has struggled to cope with slow economic and income growth in the Eurozone, with persistent worries about deflation. Indeed, the Markit Flash Eurozone Manufacturing PMI eased yet again, down from 50.7 to 50.5. This was the lowest level of growth since July 2013, the first month that the Eurozone emerged from its deep two-year recession.

Meanwhile, housing data released last week were mixed. New home sales rose sharply, up from an annualized 427,000 in July to 504,000 in August. This was the highest level in more than six years, and the pace of sales in August starkly contrasts with what we have seen so far in 2014. This makes it likely that September figures will pull back a little, but the trend line remains promising. In contrast, existing home sales decreased 1.8 percent in August, which was disappointing given recent improvements. It is likely that August’s decline was the result of a strong July reading, with some easing probably inevitable. Moving forward, the expectation is that existing home sales should move higher, continuing a longer-run trend in the data since March.

This week, the focus will be on jobs. After a disappointing employment report in August, we anticipate better news in September. I would not be surprised if the zero jobs figure in August for manufacturing was revised higher, and I continue to expect manufacturing jobs gains to revert to an average of 12,500 to 15,000 per month for the rest of the year. Nonfarm payrolls should once again exceed 200,000 in September, an improvement from the 142,000 figure in August (which is also likely to get revised upward). Other highlights this week include the latest data on construction spending, factory orders, international trade, personal income and manufacturing activity in the Dallas Federal Reserve district.

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

real GDP forecast - sept2014

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Kansas City Fed: After Slowing in August, Manufacturing Activity Picked Up a Little in September

The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity picked up a little in September, rebounding after slowing in August. The composite index of general business conditions increased from 3 in August to 6 in September. Through the first nine months of 2014, the main index has averaged 6.7, peaking at 10 in both March and May. As such, we continue to see modest gains among manufacturers in the Kansas City Fed district, with mostly positive expectations about the future.

For instance, the index for production rose from 4 in July to 12 in August, with the percentage of survey respondents saying that output had increased for the month rising from 25 percent to 34 percent. In contrast, one-quarter of those taking the survey said that their production levels were falling. Similar figures could be seen for shipments (up from 2 to 14). Employment shifted into positive territory (up from -4 to 7), with the average workweek also improving (up from -1 to 2). On the downside, the pace of new orders eased marginally, down from 6 to 5.

Several of the sample comments discussed skills shortages. As one respondent put it, “It is still very difficult to fill open positions for any type of worker from production to professional. I am seeing the same issue everywhere in our community.” The other issue of note in the comments was pricing pressures, both for wages and raw materials.  With that said, domestic energy production was mentioned as a positive for manufacturers in the region.

Looking ahead six months, manufacturers in the district remained optimistic overall. While the future-oriented composite index was unchanged at 17, over half of the respondents anticipate higher levels of production and shipments in the next six months. Moreover, the percentage expecting increased new orders rose from 38 percent to 44 percent for the months. Around 30 percent of those taking the survey plan to hire new workers or invest in more capital.

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

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Richmond Fed: Manufacturing Activity Continued to Expand at Fastest Pace in Over 3 Years

The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity continued to expand at its fastest pace since March 2011. The composite index of general business conditions rose from 12 in August to 14 in September. It was the sixth consecutive monthly expansion since the winter-related contractions in both February and March. Indeed, much like other regional surveys, these data show an uptick in demand and production for manufacturers recently, with a mostly upbeat assessment for the coming months.

Looking specifically at current activity, manufacturing leaders in the Richmond Fed district noted increased paces for many of the key measures. This included new orders (up from 13 to 14), shipments (up from 10 to 11), the average workweek (up from 8 to 10) and the number of employees (up from 11 to 17). Regarding hiring, that measure was the highest level observed since December 2010, suggesting that manufacturers in the region are adding new workers at an accelerated pace. The only measure to decelerate slightly in the month was capacity utilization (down from 17 to 13), but it continues to expand at a decent rate.

Manufacturers in the region remain relatively optimistic in their expectations for the next six months, albeit marginally less positive than the month before. Indices for a number of indicators shifted somewhat lower in September but still indicate strong growth ahead. This includes new orders (down from 47 to 37), shipments (down from 43 to 41), capacity utilization (down from 35 to 26), hiring (down from 18 to 17) and the workweek (unchanged at 10). On the positive side, capital expenditures picked up the pace, with the index increasing from 27 to 38. Wages (up from 28 to 35) also accelerated convincingly.

Inflationary pressures picked up once again in September, bucking the trends seen in national pricing data.  Manufacturers in the region said that prices paid for raw materials grew 2.10 percent at the annual rate in September, up from 1.39 percent in August. Yet, looking ahead six months, respondents expect input costs to increase an annualized 2.00 percent, down from 2.05 percent the month before. This suggests that businesses anticipate modest gains in input prices over the course over the next few months, mostly in-line with Federal Reserve projections.

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

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Markit: Chinese Manufacturing Picks Up Slightly, While Europe’s Eases Yet Again

The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) edged slightly higher, up from 50.2 in August to 50.5 in September. The Chinese economy nearly stalled in July, and these latest data suggest that there are some signs of stabilization. For instance, this was the fourth consecutive month with expanding manufacturing activity – an improvement from earlier in the year when demand and output were contracting. In August, growth in new orders (up from 51.3 to 52.3) and exports (up from 51.9 to 53.9) accelerated somewhat, but production growth was unchanged at 51.8. One negative continues to be employment (down from 47.4 to 46.9), with hiring contracting for 11 straight months.

If the Chinese economy has rebounded marginally in September, it would be welcome news. Industrial production plummeted from 9.0 percent year-over-year in July to 6.9 percent in August, the slowest pace since December 2008. Fixed asset investments also slowed, down from an annual rate of 17.0 percent to 16.5 percent. Nonetheless, real GDP growth improved from 7.4 percent year-over-year growth in the first quarter to 7.5 percent in the second quarter. The latest data suggest that the annual pace of growth might decelerate further, however.

At the same time, the Markit Flash Eurozone Manufacturing PMI eased yet again, down from 50.7 to 50.5. This was the lowest level observed since July 2013, the first month that the Eurozone emerged from its deep two-year recession. As such, it indicates the extent to which activity in Europe has come to a halt. New orders (down from 50.7 to 49.7) contracted slightly for the first time in 15 months. Output was unchanged at 51.0, and export sales were flat at 51.7. Hiring advanced to a neutral position (up from 49.3 to 50.0). On the closely-watched inflation measures, both input (down from 51.8 to 49.4) and output (down from 50.3 to 49.2) prices moved into negative territory.

There have been persistent worries about deflation on the continent, with the European Central Bank lowering rates recently in the hope of spurring more economic activity and additional lending. As of August, Eurozone inflation had risen just 0.3 percent over the past 12 months, prompting continued worries about deflationary pressures in the economy. The annual inflation pace is down from 1.3 percent in August 2013. Real GDP remained unchanged in the second quarter, down from 0.2 percent growth in the first quarter. Moreover, it has increased just 0.7 percent year-over-year, illustrating just how sluggish the recovery has been.

Meanwhile, the Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing PMI was unchanged at 57.9, its fastest pace since May 2010. This report continues to show strong growth in manufacturing activity in the U.S., a sign that the sector has regained the robustness seen at the end of 2013. The pace of new orders were unchanged at 60.5, indicating healthy gains, and hiring (up from 54.6 to 56.6) accelerated to its highest level since March 2012. Production (down from 60.7 to 59.9) growth was healthy, and export orders (down from 54.4 to 53.8) expanded modestly despite a slight deceleration in each figure.

Overall, the U.S. data suggest that manufacturers remain upbeat in September about overall activity, with the sector continuing to recover from softness earlier in the year. This data is largely consistent with other indicators, as well.

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

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Georgia Added the Most Manufacturing Employees in August

Georgia added the most net new manufacturing employees in August, according to new state-wide employment data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Georgia manufacturers hired an additional 5,500 workers in the month. This was followed by Florida (up 4,500), Colorado (up 2,100), Illinois (up 2,100) and Michigan (up 2,000). On a year-to-date basis, Georgia also fared well, making the top five states for manufacturing job growth. The top five states for manufacturing job gains through August were Indiana (up 14,300), Ohio (up 9,400), Georgia (up 9,100), Texas (up 9,100) and Michigan (up 7,100).

Since the recession, manufacturers have added 681,000 net new workers. Michigan has added the most manufacturing employees since the end of 2009, hiring 111,300 on net. Other top states since the recession ended include Texas (up 80,100), Indiana (up 72,600), Ohio (up 61,300) and Wisconsin (up 41,600).

In terms of the unemployment rate, North Dakota’s 2.8 percent rate remains the lowest in the United States, with shale exploration continuing to pay benefits that that state’s economy. Nebraska, South Dakota and Utah also have very low unemployment rates, each with 3.6 percent of their populations unemployed. At the other end of the spectrum, Georgia (8.1 percent) has the highest unemployment rate, followed by Mississippi (7.9 percent), Rhode Island (7.7 percent), the District of Columbia (7.6 percent) and Nevada (7.6 percent).

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

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Philly Fed: Manufacturing Activity Eased Slightly, but Growth Remains Strong

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said that manufacturing activity eased slightly, but growth remained strong in its district. The Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey’s composite index of general business activity declined from 28.0 in August to 22.5 in September. While the figure decreased somewhat, it is important to note that August’s reading was the fastest pace since March 2011, and a modest pullback should have been anticipated. Many of the key indicators continued to expand at healthy rates, keeping the underlying trends positive.

As evidence of this, the paces for new orders (up from 14.7 to 15.5), shipments (up from 16.5 to 21.6) and employment (up from 9.1 to 21.2) accelerated. The percentage of respondents saying that their sales had increased in the month rose from 32.3 percent in August to 37.6 percent in September. Roughly one-quarter of respondents noted additional hiring in both months, with the percentage citing declines in employment dropping from 15.6 percent to 4.5 percent. Therefore, fewer manufacturers were cutting workers in September, which was encouraging. Still, the average workweek (down from 13.3 to 4.4) narrowed a bit.

Manufacturers remained overwhelmingly upbeat in their outlook despite a decrease in the forward-looking composite measure (down from 66.4 to 56.0). In fact, 55.1 percent of respondents anticipate increased new orders in the next 6 months, with 58.8 percent seeing higher shipment levels. Regarding employment, 43.6 percent expect to add new workers in the coming months, with just 4.0 percent indicating possible declines. Capital spending (up from 17.5 to 23.7) was also expected to increase at decent rates. The one downside was pricing pressures for raw materials, with almost half of those taking the survey predicting higher input costs ahead.

As further evidence of this optimism, manufacturers responded to a special question about production in the third quarter. Nearly 59 percent of them said that output would increase for their company in the third quarter relative to the second quarter, with 28.7 percent stating declines. On average, production was expected to increase by 2 percent in the third quarter. For the fourth quarter, those predicting an acceleration in activity (53.8 percent) outpaced those forecasting a deceleration (21.2 percent).

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

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NY Fed: Manufacturing Activity Expanded Strongly in September

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey from the New York Federal Reserve Bank reported a strong increase in activity in September, its fastest pace in nearly five years. The composite index of general business conditions rose from 14.7 in August to 27.5 in September, with almost 46 percent of those taking the survey saying that conditions had improved in the month. Other measures were mostly positive, as well, including faster paces for new orders (up from 14.1 to 16.9) and shipments (up from 24.6 to 27.1).

Yet, there were also some challenges, most notably in the labor market. Hiring eased in September, with the index for the number of employees dropping from 13.6 to 3.3. This decline stemmed from an increase in those respondents who said that their employment levels had decreased, up from 5.7 percent in August to 16.3 percent in September. Along those lines, the average employee workweek (down from 8.0 to 3.2) also narrowed.

Pricing pressures continued to be elevated, even as there was a marginal improvement for the month. The index for raw material prices declined slightly, down from 27.3 to 23.9, but that still represents a significant percentage of manufacturers in the Fed district seeing input costs rise. That is expected to continue over the next six months, with nearly 46 percent of respondents anticipating higher prices.

The other forward-looking measures continue to find a mostly optimistic outlook in the New York Fed region. There was a slight pullback in many of the measures assessing the next six months, but manufacturing leaders remain upbeat overall. In fact, 57.1 percent of those completing the survey predict sales increases, or about the same proportion as those anticipating higher shipments. Just over one-quarter expect to add more workers in the coming months, with 29.4 percent planning additional capital expenditures.

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

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NFIB: Small Business Optimism Ticked Higher in August

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said that small business sentiment ticked higher in August, rising to its second-highest level in seven years. The Small Business Optimism Index increased from 95.7 in July to 96.1 in August. After peaking at 96.6 in May, the index eased somewhat in June, and August’s reading suggests that confidence has once again begun to climb back. Over a longer time frame, it is clear that small business owners have become more positive over the past six months, with the index at just 91.4 in February.

With that said, the underlying data were slightly mixed. On the positive side, the percentage of small business owners with job openings right now increased from 24 percent to 26 percent, continuing an upward trend. Along those lines, the percent planning to make capital expenditures over the next 3 to 6 months rose from 23 percent to 27 percent, its fastest pace since November 2007 (the month before the official start of the recession). On the topic of inflation, pricing pressures have decelerated a bit, with the net percentage of those predicting price increases over the next 3 months declining from 22 percent to 19 percent.

Yet, the report also reflected some soft spots. For instance, sales expectations over the next 3 months dipped from a net percentage of 10 percent to 6 percent. In addition, the percentage suggesting that the next 3 months were a “good time to expand” was off slightly from 10 percent to 9 percent. Nonetheless, the outlook data do reflect an upward trend overall, rising from 6 percent in February. For those saying that it is not a good time for expansion, the top reasons cited continue to be economic conditions and the political climate. Taxes were the listed as the “single most important problem” by 24 percent of respondents, followed by government regulations (19 percent), poor sales (13 percent) and labor quality (11 percent).

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

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Monday Economic Report – September 8, 2014

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

The U.S. economy added 142,000 nonfarm payroll workers in August, a disappointing figure given signs of a rebound in many other indicators lately. The consensus expectation had been for nonfarm payroll growth to exceed 200,000 jobs for the seventh consecutive month, as was observed in the estimates provided by ADP the day before. Manufacturing employment was flat for the month, which was also a disappointment. It ended a 12-month streak of job gains for the sector, a period in which manufacturers added 168,000 net new workers. Hopefully, the August jobs report was just a brief pause in what otherwise had been positive news on the labor front.

The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) purchasing managers’ index (PMI) data provides much encouragement that manufacturing activity is moving in the right direction heading into the autumn months. The headline PMI figure rose from 57.1 in July to 59.0 in August, its highest level since March 2011, and it reflected a robust recovery from weaknesses earlier in the year. Indeed, new orders and production expanded at healthy paces. These findings mirror the latest NAM/IndustryWeek Survey of Manufacturers, which is being released this morning, showing respondents mostly upbeat about their own company’s outlook, with sales, capital spending and hiring expectations at two-year highs. Indeed, 87.3 percent of those taking the survey were either somewhat or very positive in their outlook, up from 85.9 percent three months ago. The data are largely consistent with 3.1 percent growth in manufacturing production over the next two quarters.

Manufacturers spent 4.4 percent more on construction projects in July, also providing some reassuring news. The sector has devoted 23.9 percent more to construction projects over the past 12 months, an indication that the increase in demand and output observed over that time frame has resulted in a jump in new investments. Meanwhile, new factory orders data provided mixed news. While orders increased by a whopping 10.5 percent in July, much of that stemmed from highly volatile nondefense aircraft sales. Excluding transportation orders, new factory orders declined 0.8 percent for the month, a finding that we had noted in the earlier release of preliminary durable goods data. Still, factory orders excluding transportation have risen 2.7 percent over the past six months (since weather-related declines in January), which mostly mirrors the more positive data in other releases.

Looking at exports, the U.S. trade deficit narrowed ever-so-slightly in July, with an increase in goods exports marginally offsetting an increase in goods imports. Yet, manufactured goods exports have risen only slightly year-to-date, up just 0.8 percent so far in 2014 using non-seasonally adjusted data. On the other hand, these same figures show that exports to our top five exports markets were higher through the first seven months of this year relative to last year. Regardless, manufacturers hope that the pace of export growth accelerates, with sluggish sales frustrating business leaders and net export growth providing a drag on real GDP over the past two quarters.

This week, we will get new data on consumer confidence, job openings, retail sales and small business optimism. Markets will also continue to digest Friday’s employment numbers, trying to decipher if they were an aberration or a sign of larger weaknesses. In particular, this discussion centers on how the Federal Reserve will interpret such things, with a debate already ongoing as to when the Federal Open Market Committee will begin to increase short-term interest rates. Conventional wisdom holds that short-term interest rates will rise sometime in 2015, but whether that occurs earlier or later in the year is up for debate between those who are more hawkish or dovish on inflation. In the Beige Book, which was released last Wednesday, the Fed mostly observed progress in the economy in recent months, including in manufacturing. Yet, as long as the Fed continues to see “slack” in the labor market, it might be less willing to normalize rates.

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