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posted on 03 September 2015

August 2015 ISM Services Index Marginally Declines

Written by Steven Hansen

The ISM non-manufacturing (aka ISM Services) index continues its growth cycle, but declined from 60.3 to 59.0 (above 50 signals expansion). Important internals likewise declined but remain in expansion. Market PMI Services Index was released this morning, also is in expansion, but improved.

This was above expectations of 56.5 to 61.5 (consensus 58.5).

For comparison, the Market PMI Services Index was released this morning also - and it strengthened. Here is the analysis from Bloomberg:

Released On 9/3/2015 9:45:00 AM For Aug, 2015
Prior Consensus Consensus Range Actual
Level 55.7 55.2 55.0 to 55.9 56.1

Recent History Of This Indicator
The services PMI is expected to hold at the flash 55.2 for the final August reading. New orders have been strong in this report and hiring has been described as robust, a reminder that the domestic economy, apart from global troubles, remains solid.

There are two sub-indexes in the NMI which have good correlations to the economy - the Business Activity Index and the New Orders Index - both have good track records in spotting an incipient recession - both remaining in territories associated with expansion.

This index and its associated sub-indices are fairly volatile - and onande needs to step back from the data and view this index over longer periods than a single month.

The Business Activity sub-index declined 1.0 points and now is at 63.9.

ISM Services - Business Activity Sub-Index

The New Orders Index declined 0.4 and is currently at 63.8.

ISM Services - New Orders Sub-Index

The complete ISM manufacturing and non-manufacturing survey table is below.

Econintersect does give serious consideration to this survey as the service sector accounts for 80% of the economy and 90% of employment. However, this an opinion survey and is not hard data.

From the ISM report:

"The NMI® registered 59 percent in August, 1.3 percentage points lower than the July reading of 60.3 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector at a slower rate. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index decreased to 63.9 percent, which is 1 percentage point lower than the July reading of 64.9 percent, reflecting growth for the 73rd consecutive month at a slower rate. The New Orders Index registered 63.4 percent, 0.4 percentage point lower than the reading of 63.8 percent in July. The Employment Index decreased 3.6 percentage points to 56 percent from the July reading of 59.6 percent and indicates growth for the 18th consecutive month. The Prices Index decreased 2.9 percentage points from the July reading of 53.7 percent to 50.8 percent, indicating prices increased in August for the sixth consecutive month. According to the NMI®, 15 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in August. Overall, respondents continue to be optimistic about business conditions and the economy. This is reflected by indexes that are again strong; however, lower than what was seen in July."


The 15 non-manufacturing industries reporting growth in August — listed in order — are: Transportation & Warehousing; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Construction; Accommodation & Food Services; Retail Trade; Finance & Insurance; Public Administration; Health Care & Social Assistance; Educational Services; Utilities; Management of Companies & Support Services; Wholesale Trade; Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; and Information. The only industry reporting contraction in August is Mining.

Caveats on the use of ISM Non-Manufacturing Index:

This is a survey, a quantification of opinion. However, as pointed out above, certain elements of this survey have good to excellent correlation to the economy for as long as it has been in existence. Surveys lead hard data by weeks to months, and can provide early insight into changing conditions.

The main ISM non-manufacturing index (NMI) is so new that it does not have enough data history to have reliable certainty about how it correlates to the economy. Again, two sub-indices (business activity and new orders) do have good correlation for the limited history available.

No survey is accurate in projecting employment - and the ISM Non-Manufacturing Employment Index is no exception. Although there are some general correlation in trends if you stand far enough back from this graph, month-to-month movements have not correlated well with the BLS Service Sector Employment data.

ISM Services Employment Sub-Index vs BLS Non-Farm Services Employment

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