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posted on 03 June 2016

May 2016 ISM Services Index Slows

Written by Steven Hansen

The ISM non-manufacturing (aka ISM Services) index continues its growth cycle, but declined from 55.7 to 52.9 (above 50 signals expansion). Important internals declined but remain in expansion. Market PMI Services Index was released this morning, it also declined but remains in expansion..

This was below expectations (from Bloomberg) of 54.8 to 56.5 (consensus 55.5).

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

Released On 6/3/2016 9:45:00 AM For May, 2016
Prior Actual
Level 52.8 51.3
US Services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) is based on monthly questionnaire surveys collected from over 400 U.S. companies which provide a leading indication of what is happening in the private sector services economy. It is seasonally adjusted and is calculated from seven components, including New Business, Employment and Business Expectations.

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.

The Business Activity sub-index declined 3.7 points and now is at 55.1.

ISM Services - Business Activity Sub-Index

The New Orders Index declined 5.7 and is currently at 54.2.

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:

Economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector grew in May for the 76th consecutive month, say the nation's purchasing and supply executives in the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.

The NMI® registered 52.9 percent in May, 2.8 percentage points lower than the April reading of 55.7 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector at a slower rate. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index decreased to 55.1 percent, 3.7 percentage points lower than the April reading of 58.8 percent, reflecting growth for the 82nd consecutive month, at a slower rate in May. The New Orders Index registered 54.2 percent, 5.7 percentage points lower than the reading of 59.9 percent in April. The Employment Index decreased 3.3 percentage points to 49.7 percent from the April reading of 53 percent and indicates contraction after two consecutive months of growth. The Prices Index increased 2.2 percentage points from the April reading of 53.4 percent to 55.6 percent, indicating prices increased in May for the second consecutive month. According to the NMI®, 14 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in May. Respondents' comments are mixed and vary by industry and company. Overall, the report reflects a cooling-off and slowing in momentum from the previous months of growth for the non-manufacturing sector.


The 14 non-manufacturing industries reporting growth in May — listed in order — are: Health Care & Social Assistance; Accommodation & Food Services; Utilities; Wholesale Trade; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Construction; Public Administration; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Management of Companies & Support Services; Information; Finance & Insurance; Retail Trade; Transportation & Warehousing; and Arts, Entertainment & Recreation. The four industries reporting contraction in May are: Mining; Other Services; Educational Services; and Professional, Scientific & Technical Services.

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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