Monday Economic Report – September 29, 2014

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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

ISM: Manufacturing Activity Expanded Very Strongly in August

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The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) rose very strongly, with the headline figure rising from 57.1 in July to 59.0 in August. This was the highest level since March 2011, and it reflected a robust recovery from weaknesses earlier in the year.  Indeed, new orders (up from 63.4 to 66.7) and production (up from 61.2 to 64.5) appear to be expanding at quite healthy paces, with indices for both exceeding 60 once again. The production measure has been over 60 for three straight months; whereas the new orders index was at its fastest pace since April 2004. Export sales (up from 53.0 to 55.0) were also improved.

The sample comments tend to echo these strong figures. As one electrical equipment manufacturer said, “Overall business is improving. Order backlog is increasing. Quotes are increasing. Much more positive outlook in our sector.” This pretty much summed up the increase in demand seen in many of the other comments, as well. Yet, those taking the ISM survey also noted some challenges, particularly the geopolitical risks and the ability to attract labor. The other concern noted in past surveys was pricing pressures, but they appear to have eased somewhat in August (down from 59.5 to 58.0).

On this latter point, the employment index was marginally lower (down from 58.2 to 58.1), but hiring growth has clearly picked up from recent months. The hiring index averaged 52.7, for instance, through the first six months of the year, further highlighting the July and August acceleration in the data. This should bode well for manufacturing jobs numbers out on Friday, which have averaged 22,000 between May and July and 15,000 each month over the past year.

Overall, this report shows that manufacturers are seeing strong growth more recently in demand and output, which is definitely positive given the disappointing start to the year. Manufacturing leaders are mostly positive about the second half of 2014, even as they are keenly aware of possible risks on the horizon. This includes geopolitical events, a cautious consumer and labor shortages, among other concerns. Still, it is nice to see the sector hitting on all cylinders, and the outlook for strong growth over the coming months remains positive.

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


Indiana Added the Most New Manufacturing Jobs in July and also Year-to-Date

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Indiana created the most net new manufacturing jobs in July, adding 5,500 workers during the month. These gains came from both durable and nondurable goods sectors, with hiring up by 3,400 and 2,100, respectively. Other states with significant growth in manufacturing employment in manufacturing employment in July included Kentucky (up 5,000), California (up 4,600), Michigan (up 4,200) and Illinois (up 3,900).

Indiana has also generated the most employment gains year-to-date, with 13,900 additional manufacturing jobs added through the first seven months of 2014. Missouri (up 8,100), Texas (up 7,600), Ohio (up 7,600) and Michigan (up 6,800) have also added a sizable number of new manufacturing jobs so far this year. Michigan (up 111,000) continues the lead the list of the most net new manufacturing jobs added since the end of the recession.

The national unemployment rate rose to 6.2 percent in July, as we learned in an earlier release. The lowest unemployment rate continues to be North Dakota’s 2.8 percent, followed by Nebraska (3.6 percent), Utah (3.6 percent), South Dakota (3.7 percent) and Vermont (3.7 percent). Meanwhile, Mississippi (8.0 percent) had the highest unemployment rate in the country, with several states also experiencing elevated rates, including Georgia (7.8 percent), Michigan (7.7 percent), Nevada (7.7 percent) and Rhode Island (7.7 percent).

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

Business Economists Anticipate 2.5 Percent Growth in Real GDP in 2014

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Economists with the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) expect the economy to pick up in the second half of this year. Yet, overall estimates for growth for 2014 as a whole have fallen over the course of the past few months, with activity starting off somewhat disappointing in the first quarter. Economists now estimate real GDP growth of 2.5 percent for this year, down from 2.7 percent in the March survey and 2.8 percent in the December survey. This implies growth exceeding 3 percent in each of the remaining three quarters this year. In addition, survey respondents anticipate 3.1 percent growth in 2015.

Looking at the manufacturing sector, business economists expect industrial production to accelerate this year, with current estimates of 3.7 percent for 2014. That would be an improvement from the 3.2 percent growth rate forecasted three months ago. These results are consistent with the mostly upbeat data seen in the latest NAM/IndustryWeek Survey of Manufacturers, which predicted 4.0 percent growth in manufacturing output through the end of this year and sales rising at their fastest pace in two years.

In terms of auto production, light vehicle sales should rise from an average of 15.5 million annualized units in 2013 to 16.1 million and 16.5 million in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Meanwhile, housing starts are anticipated to grow rapidly, particularly next year, up from an expected 1.03 million in 2014 to 1.30 million in 2015. Capital spending should improve, as well, with relatively healthy gains for fixed investments in nonresidential structures, equipment and software, and intellectual property products.

Labor market growth has picked up since the last survey, not unlike the data seen in the most recent jobs report. Those taking the survey predict that nonfarm payrolls will average 209,000 per month in 2014, up from 188,000 each month in the last survey. With that said, business economists still predict a slow decline in the unemployment rate, averaging 6.2 percent this year.

A number of special questions focused on the Federal Reserve Board and monetary policy. Over ninety percent felt that the Fed would end its asset purchase program by year’s end, with the vast majority feeling that it would end in the fourth quarter. Similarly, 86 percent felt that short-term rates would rise in 2015, with over half anticipating the federal funds rate to increase in the second half of next year. In terms of global worries, the majority of respondents feel that the Russia/Ukraine crisis will hurt growth in Europe (84 percent) and that China will face a debt crisis in the next few years (51 percent). At the same time, nearly half suggest that deflationary concerns will hinder the economic recovery in Europe.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers. Note that he was one of the panelists for the NABE Outlook Survey. 

Manufacturers Added 9,000 Workers in December, But Jobs Numbers Were Weak Overall

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Manufacturers added 9,000 net new workers in December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was below the much-stronger hiring gains observed in October and November (17,000 and 31,000, respectively), but the average over the past five months suggests that employment has begun to pick up more recently, albeit at a pace that remains modest at best. From August to December, manufacturers hired an additional 16,000 net new employees on average each month. In contrast, the average over the prior five months (March to July) was a net decline of 8,000 per month.

Looking at the entire year, manufacturers added 77,000 net new workers over the course of 2013. This was the slowest pace of hiring growth since 2009. Manufacturing sector employment rose by 109,000 in 2010, with 207,000 and 154,000 more workers added in 2011 and 2012, respectively. As such, manufacturers have added 557,000 more jobs since December 2009.

In December, both durable and nondurable goods firms added workers on net, up 6,000 and 3,000, respectively, from November. The largest monthly gains were in the following sectors: food manufacturing (up 5,300), fabricated metal products (up 5,000), transportation equipment (up 3,800), primary metals (up 3,500), petroleum and coal products (up 1,600), and plastics and rubber products (up 1,600).

Some notable sectors with declining employment for the month included computer and electronic products (down 2,400), printing and related support activities (down 2,200), chemicals (down 1,800), nonmetallic mineral products (down 1,500), and furniture and related products (down 1,200).

On the hours and compensation front, the data were mixed for manufacturers. There was some slight easing in the number of average number of hours worked per week (down from 41.5 to 41.3) and in average weekly earnings (down from $1,078.17 to $1,075.04) for durable goods firms. At the same time, similar data were a bit higher for nondurable goods manufacturers, with average weekly hours (up from 40.2 to 40.3) and average weekly earnings (up from $891.64 to $895.87) higher. Note that the longer-term trend for manufacturers on the labor front has been a positive one for both of these indicators.

Meanwhile, much of the attention in this month’s jobs numbers has been on the weak nonfarm payroll growth. The overall economy added just 74,000 nonfarm payroll workers in December – a figure that was well below the consensus estimate of around 200,000. There is some suspicion that colder weather might have had an impact on this data. The average monthly gain in nonfarm payrolls for 2013 was 182,167. This was nearly identical to the averages seen in 2011 and 2012, which were 175,000 and 183,000, respectively. Nonetheless, the average from August to November had jumped to 214,000, providing some optimism for stronger numbers in December, which did not materialize.

The other shocking development in this report was the drop in the unemployment rate from 7.0 percent in November to 6.7 percent in December. This was the lowest rate since November 2008. Yet, it corresponds with another drop in the participation rate, down from 63.0 percent to 62.8 percent, its lowest level since February 1978. Those individuals who were “marginally attached to the labor force” rose by 331,000, including 155,000 additional “discouraged workers.”

In conclusion, the December employment data show that we continue to have persistent weaknesses in the labor market despite recent progress. Weather might have been a factor, but overall, the jobs market data were disappointing. For manufacturers, the positive news was that the sector has added 16,000 additional workers over the course of the past five months, and yet, this news is somewhat tempered by the reality that 2013 was the weakest year of hiring growth in the sector since 2009.

With that said, we remain cautiously optimistic about modest gains in employment for 2014. To ensure that the gains in employment that we have seen in the second half of 2013 continue in the new year, policymakers should adopt pro-growth measures that will allow the sector to expand and flourish, allowing them to hire more workers.

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


Wisconsin Created the Most Manufacturing Jobs in October

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics released regional and state employment numbers for October. The state with the most net new manufacturing jobs was Wisconsin, adding 6,000 workers in October. Looking at net job creation in the sector since the recession, Wisconsin comes in fifth place with 39,000 jobs added since December 2009. Much of this growth has stemmed from increased durable goods production, with year-to-date durable goods jobs growth of 6,000, or roughly 69 percent of the 8,700 total manufacturing hires through October.

Beyond Wisconsin, the other top five states with manufacturing employment gains in October were Minnesota (up 3,900), Georgia (up 3,900), Indiana (up 3,600), and Illinois (up 3,500). On a year-to-date basis (through October), the fastest manufacturing job growth has been in Michigan (up 12,900), Wisconsin (up 8,700), Texas (up 4,500), Oregon (up 3,600), and North Carolina (up 3,500). Since the recession, the biggest gains were in Michigan (up 98,700), Texas (up 61,700), Indiana (up 49,700), Ohio (up 48,800), and Wisconsin (up 39,000).

Nationally, Nevada still has the highest unemployment rate at 9.3 percent, with Rhode Island (9.2 percent) and Michigan (9.0 percent) close behind. The lowest unemployment rate continues to be in North Dakota with 2.7 percent, with South Dakota’s 3.7 percent and Nebraska’s 3.9 percent also well below the national average.

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

Monday Economic Report – September 9, 2013

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

Manufacturing activity in the United States has accelerated in the past few months, with several indicators reflecting a pickup in sales, output and shipments. The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) increased from 55.4 in July to 55.7 in August, with strong growth in new orders and production. This was the third consecutive month of expanding activity—a sign that the sector has begun to rebound from softness during the spring. Still, hiring growth remained more modest, and several sample comments tended to echo a cautious tone in contrast to the more optimistic data. This morning, we will release the results of the NAM/IndustryWeek Survey of Manufacturers, which support many of these findings. Our members have a slightly improved business outlook, but we are still not seeing the robust growth that we had at the beginning of 2012. We will discuss more of the survey’s highlights in next week’s report.

August’s jobs numbers continued to be disappointing, even though manufacturers added 14,000 additional workers on net. Revisions cut the number of manufacturing jobs in June and July by 14,000, negating August’s gains. The good news was that August’s gains followed five straight months of declining employment. Nonetheless, the sector has added just 20,000 net new workers over the past 12 months, or less than 1 percent of all nonfarm payroll workers created over the past year. We hope the increases in manufacturing production will yield additional hiring moving forward—something that might require stronger economic growth both domestically and globally.

On the export front, the trade deficit widened from $34.54 billion in June to $39.15 billion in July, mainly due to higher goods imports. Despite the increased deficit, July’s figure was in line with the 2013 average of $39.94 billion. Manufactured goods exports have grown frustratingly slow so far this year, up just 1.6 percent through the first seven months. Europe’s challenges are a major factor in this easing. Europe’s economy appears to be stabilizing, with the Markit Eurozone Manufacturing PMI expanding for the second consecutive month (following 23 straight months of contraction). We have seen modest gains in exports with our major trading partners otherwise, but these gains have still not been as large as past years.

The next Global Manufacturing Economic Update, which will be released on Friday, will delve deeper into international trends. Also this week, we will get the latest data on consumer and small business confidence, job openings, producer prices, retail sales and wholesale trade.

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

ism pmi - sept2013

Michigan Created the Most Manufacturing Jobs in July

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics released regional and state employment numbers for July. The state with the most net new manufacturing jobs was Michigan, adding 7,600 workers in the month. This should probably not be a surprise given that motor vehicles along contributed 9,100 additional employees in the national jobs numbers for July, which were released earlier in the month. In fact, without the increase in auto sector workers, manufacturing employment would have fallen for the fifth straight month.

Beyond Michigan, the other top five states with manufacturing employment gains in July were Virginia (up 3,300), California (up 2,600), Ohio (up 2,400), and Georgia (up 2,200). Over the course of the past 12 months, states with the greatest increases in manufacturing jobs year-over-year included Michigan (up 48,800), Texas (up 28,000), Indiana (up 27,700), Ohio (up 25,600), and Washington (up 18,800).

Nationally, Nevada still has the highest unemployment rate at 9.5 percent, with Illinois (9.2 percent) close behind. The lowest unemployment rate continues to be in North Dakota with 3.0 percent, with South Dakota’s 3.9 percent also well below the national average.

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

Rep. Paulsen Discusses the Trade Challenges in India with Manufacturers

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Today Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN) joined the NAM’s India Task Force meeting to discuss the ongoing challenges resulting from India’s recent discriminatory trade practices. Paulsen and Congressman John Larson (D-CT) are circulating a letter urging Secretary of State Kerry to press for an end to this discrimination during his visit to India at the end of this month.

Congressman Erik Paulsen discusses India's discriminatory trade practices with manufacturers.

Congressman Erik Paulsen discusses India's discriminatory trade practices with manufacturers.

Manufacturers are already facing significant barriers to trade and India’s recent actions threaten the trade relationship with our fourth largest trading partner worth $60 billion just last year. The courts and policymakers in India are engaged in a persistent pattern of discrimination designed to benefits India’s economy at the expense of American jobs. Last week the NAM joined 16 other business groups in sending a letter to President Obama asking his Administration to directly engage the Indian government to stop these practices and to keep it from happening again in the future.

From the letter:

“These actions and others constitute a disturbing trend that may continue and even expand to other products, sectors, and countries.  Already there are indications that other countries are considering similar measures.  Such actions are completely at odds with recognized global norms and raise troubling questions about India’s compliance with its international obligations to protect ideas, brands, and inventions and to treat imported goods no less favorably than domestic products.”

The discussion with Congressman Paulsen today was a great opportunity for manufacturers to discuss the concerns about India with a member of the Ways and Means Committee. We will continue to urge members of Congress to ask the Administration to engage India’s government so we can protect American jobs.


Manufacturers Pull Back on Hiring and Job Openings in March

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that manufacturing job openings declined from 274,000 in February to 260,000 in March, according to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report. The number of job postings has stayed by 300,000 since July 2012, staying within a narrow range of 240,000 to 275,000 since then. If there is a longer-term trend, it is that the number of job openings in manufacturing appears to have stalled after topping out at 324,000 in March 2012.

This is also consistent with what we are seeing in the net hiring data, which turned negative again in March for manufacturers for the first time since September 2012. Manufacturers hired 200,000 workers in March, the slowest pace in almost 4 years. This is down from 231,000 in February. Meanwhile, total separations – which include layoffs, quits, and retirements – declined from 225,000 to 205,000 for the month. On the positive side, the separations rate is at an all-time low in the JOLTS data’s 13-year history. Nonetheless, net hiring (or hiring minus separations) was -5,000 in March, down from +6,000 in February, reflecting significant weaknesses in the manufacturing sector.

Looking at the larger macroeconomy, there was some easing for job openings and hiring between February and March, but net hiring was still positive. The number of job postings declined from 3,899,000 to 3,844,000, with both figures representing 2.8 percent of total employment. Net hiring was 46,000, down from 271,000 the month before. The greatest monthly gains in hiring in March occurred primarily in the service sector, primarily from professional and business services (up 24,000) and education and health services (up 16,000).

Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.