Written by Steven Hansen
The ISM Manufacturing survey for September 2013 showed the survey’s expansion again strengthened. The New Orders sub-index which historically correlates to the economy was “less good”.
The ISM Manufacturing survey index (PMI) rose from 55.7 to 56.2 (50 separates manufacturing contraction and expansion). This was above expectations which were 54.0 to 55.0.
This index has been in a general downtrend since mid 2011. This is the third month of expansion after four months of decline. All Fed surveys (one did show no growth) and now the ISM shows manufacturing improved in September (an unusual event).
Relatively deep penetration of this index below 50 has normally resulted in a recession.
The noisy Backlog of Orders rose from 46.5 to 49.5. Backlog growth is an indicator of improving conditions; a number below 50 indicates contraction. Backlog accuracy does not have a high correlation against actual data.
The report was issued today by Bradley J. Holcomb, CPSM, CPSD, chair of the Institute for Supply Management™ Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. “The PMI™ registered 56.2 percent, an increase of 0.5 percentage point from August’s reading of 55.7 percent. September’s PMI™ reading is the highest of the year, leading to an average PMI™ reading of 55.8 percent for the third quarter. The New Orders Index decreased in September by 2.7 percentage points to 60.5 percent, and the Production Index increased by 0.2 percentage point to 62.6 percent. The Employment Index registered 55.4 percent, an increase of 2.1 percentage points compared to August’s reading of 53.3 percent, which is the highest reading for the year. Comments from the panel are generally positive and optimistic about increasing demand and improving business conditions.”
Of the 18 manufacturing industries, 11 are reporting growth in September in the following order: Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Furniture & Related Products; Petroleum & Coal Products; Fabricated Metal Products; Paper Products; Printing & Related Support Activities; Transportation Equipment; Computer & Electronic Products; Machinery; and Plastics & Rubber Products. The six industries reporting contraction in September — listed in order — are: Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Primary Metals; Textile Mills; Nonmetallic Mineral Products; Miscellaneous Manufacturing; and Chemical 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 subindex is in a long term downtrend – and remains close to contraction.
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 (dark blue bar) and US Census manufacturing shipments (lighter blue bar) to the ISM Manufacturing Survey (pink bar).
Comparing Surveys to Hard Data
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 graph below shows BLS manufacturing employment month-over-month gains against the ISM Manufacturing employment index.
Indexed to Jan 2000 – Comparison of the ISM Manufacturing Employment Subindex (blue line) to BLS Manufacturing Employment (red line) – all data seasonally adjusted
The ISM employment index appears useful in predicting turning points which can lead the BLS data up to one year.