ISM Services Index Expands, But Softens in January 2013

Written by

The January 2013 ISM non-manufacturing (aka services) index continues its 2+ year growth cycle, but softened somewhat from 55.7 to 55.2 (above 50 signals expansion). This was below the market forecast of 55.5 to 55.6 which was expecting a decline.

The economically intuitive components of this index remain in expansion territory, and is signalling the economy is not near a recession in January 2013. There are two sub-indexes in the NMI which have good correlations to the economy – the Business Activity Index and the New Orders Index – and both have good track records in spotting an incipient recession. Both are well inside expansion territory.

The Business Activity sub-index shrank marginally 0.9 points. It is in expansion territory – and remains in the middle of the range seen since the end of the recession.

ISM Services – Business Activity Sub-Index

The New Orders Index rose 1.2 points. This sub-index is in expansion territory – and is now on the high side of the range seen since the end of the recession.

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 January for the 37th consecutive month, say the nation’s purchasing and supply executives in the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM Report On Business®.

The report was issued today by Anthony Nieves, C.P.M., CFPM, chair of the Institute for Supply Management™ Non-Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. “The NMI™ registered 55.2 percent in January, 0.5 percentage point lower than the seasonally adjusted 55.7 percent registered in December. This indicates continued growth at a slightly slower rate in the non-manufacturing sector. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index registered 56.4 percent, which is 4.4 percentage points lower than the seasonally adjusted 60.8 percent reported in December, reflecting growth for the 42nd consecutive month. The New Orders Index decreased by 3.9 percentage points to 54.4 percent, and the Employment Index increased 2.2 percentage points to 57.5 percent, indicating growth in employment for the sixth consecutive month. The Prices Index increased 1.9 percentage points to 58 percent, indicating prices increased at a faster rate in January when compared to December. According to the NMI™, eight non-manufacturing industries reported growth in January. Respondents’ comments are mixed about the economy and business conditions; however, the majority of respondents are optimistic about the overall direction.”

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

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

Related Articles

All Articles on Institute of Supply Management Surveys

[iframe src=”” width=”600″ height=”500″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no”]