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posted on 01 August 2016

July 2016 ISM Manufacturing Survey Decline But Remains In Expansion

Written by Steven Hansen

The ISM Manufacturing survey remained in expansion for the fifth month after 5 months in contraction - but slightly declined. The key internals likewise declined. The PMI manufacturing Index, also released today, is also in positive territory and marginally improved.

The ISM Manufacturing survey index (PMI) marginally declined from 53.2 to 52.6 (50 separates manufacturing contraction and expansion). This was slightly below expectations which were 52.0 to 54.0 (consensus 53.2).

Earlier today, the PMI Manufacturing Index was released:

  • Manufacturing PMI rises to 52.9 in July, up from 51.3 in the previous month
  • Manufacturing output growth accelerates to eight-month high
  • Faster growth of output, new orders and employment
  • Subdued rates of input cost and prices charged inflation continue


The regional Fed manufacturing surveys are mixed, and now the ISM indicates manufacturing shows expansion.

Relatively deep penetration of this index below 50 has normally resulted in a recession.

The noisy Backlog of Orders declined and now is in contraction. Backlog growth should be an indicator of improving conditions; a number below 50 indicates contraction. Backlog accuracy does not have a high correlation against actual data.

Excepts from the ISM release:

Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in July for the fifth consecutive month, while the overall economy grew for the 86th consecutive month, say the nation's supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®.

The July PMI® registered 52.6 percent, a decrease of 0.6 percentage point from the June reading of 53.2 percent. The New Orders Index registered 56.9 percent, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the June reading of 57 percent. The Production Index registered 55.4 percent, 0.7 percentage point higher than the June reading of 54.7 percent. The Employment Index registered 49.4 percent, a decrease of 1 percentage point from the June reading of 50.4 percent. Inventories of raw materials registered 49.5 percent, an increase of 1 percentage point from the June reading of 48.5 percent. The Prices Index registered 55 percent, a decrease of 5.5 percentage points from the June reading of 60.5 percent, indicating higher raw materials prices for the fifth consecutive month. Manufacturing registered growth in July for the fifth consecutive month, as 12 of our 18 industries reported an increase in new orders in July (same as in June), and nine of our 18 industries reported an increase in production in July (down from 12 in June).

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, 11 are reporting growth in July in the following order: Textile Mills; Printing & Related Support Activities; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; Wood Products; Furniture & Related Products; Chemical Products; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Fabricated Metal Products; Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Petroleum & Coal Products; and Computer & Electronic Products. The seven industries reporting contraction in July — listed in order — are: Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Plastics & Rubber Products; Machinery; Primary Metals; Transportation Equipment; and Paper Products.


It is interesting to note that ISM Manufacturing represents less than 10% of USA employment, and approximately 20% of the business economy. Historically, it could be argued that the production portion of ISM Manufacturing leads the Fed's Industrial Production index - however the correlation is not strong when looking at trends.

New orders have direct economic consequences. Expanding new orders is a relatively reliable sign a recession is NOT imminent. However, New Orders contraction have given false recession warnings twice since 2000. This month new orders declined but remains in expansion.

However, holding this and other survey's Econintersect follows accountable for their predictions, the following graph compares the hard data from Industrial Products manufacturing subindex (blue bar) and US Census manufacturing shipments (red bar) to the ISM Manufacturing Survey (purple bar).

Comparing Surveys to Hard Data

z survey1.png

Caveats on the use of ISM Manufacturing Index:

This is a survey, a quantification of opinion - not facts and data. However, as pointed out above, certain elements of this survey have good to excellent correlation to the economy. Surveys lead hard data by weeks to months, and can provide early insight into changing conditions.

Many use ISM manufacturing for guidance in estimating manufacturing employment growth. Econintersect has run correlation coefficients for the ISM manufacturing employment and the BLS manufacturing employment data series above going back to 1988, using quarterly data. The coincident correlations are actually negative, but poor (r = -0.2 to -0.4 for various time periods examined). See here for definitions.

Before 2000 the ISM employment data had a weak positive correlation to the BLS data 4 to 7 quarters later (r values above 0.6). Since 2000 the correlations for ISM manufacturing employment as a leading indicator for the BLS manufacturing employment have been between 0 and 0.3 for r (correlation coefficient). These values define correlations as none to poor.

In other words, ISM employment index is not useful in understanding manufacturing jobs growth.

The ISM employment index appears useful in predicting turning points which can lead the BLS data up to one year.

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