Thursday, November 4, 2021

Manufacturing, Service Sector Growth Prolong Recovery

 Financial FAQs


U.S. manufacturing and service sector activity continued to climb, despite the price hikes and supply bottlenecks. And we are just at the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Both economic sectors per the ISM supply managers’ indexes show a continuing red-hot demand for goods and services.

Inflation worriers can worry less, as production speeds up. Manufacturing output alone is up 14.8 percent in the second quarter YoY (see FRED graph), reducing price pressures. Eventually resolving supply-chain issues of clogged ports and container shipments will cause supplies to catch up to the demand for goods.

Timothy R. Fiore, ISM Manufacturing Chair, said “Business Survey Committee panelists reported that their companies and suppliers continue to deal with an unprecedented number of hurdles to meet increasing demand. All segments of the manufacturing economy are impacted by record-long raw materials lead times, continued shortages of critical materials, rising commodities prices and difficulties in transporting products. Global pandemic-related issues — worker absenteeism, short-term shutdowns due to parts shortages, difficulties in filling open positions and overseas supply chain problems — continue to limit manufacturing growth potential.”

The ISM services index measuring economic activity in industries such as Retail Trade; Transportation & Warehousing; Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; jumped to an all-time high of nearly 67 in October, the Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday. The Business Activity and New Orders indexes reached 69.8 percent.

This tells us again that retail sales making up some 50 percent of consumer spending will continue strong in the holiday shopping season.

“In October, strong growth continued for the services sector, which has expanded for all but two of the last 141 months,” said ISM chair Anthony Nieves in a statement. “However, ongoing challenges — including supply chain disruptions and shortages of labor and materials — are constraining capacity and impacting overall business conditions.”

Though the huge obstacles to supply are causing some uncertainty, any figure above the 50 percent ISM survey breakeven point shows expansion. This is a sign that businesses are just beginning the replacement cycle of plants and equipment, rather than any imminent slowdown of activity caused by the bottlenecks and labor shortages.

As a side note, the number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits in late October fell to yet another pandemic low in the latest week, reflecting an urgent need by companies to hold onto to current employees and find new ones. New jobless benefit claims dropped by 14,000 to 269,000 in the seven days ended Oct. 30, the government said Thursday.

Some five million have not returned to work that were employed before the pandemic and there are 10 million job openings, so it’s not yet possible to know when and if the current labor shortage will continue to put a drag on growth.

But, in a way, this might cool demand enough that economic growth doesn’t overheat and bring on another asset bubble, and maybe tame the inflation tiger as well.

Harlan Green © 2021

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