ISM Non-Manufacturing: Continued Growth in April

May 5, 2015

by Doug Short

Today the Institute for Supply Management published its latest Non-Manufacturing Report. The headline NMI Composite Index is at 57.8 percent, up 1.3 percent from last month's 56.5 percent. Today's number came in above the Investing.com forecast of 56.2 percent.

Here is the report summary:

"The NMI® registered 57.8 percent in April, 1.3 percentage points higher than the March reading of 56.5 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index increased substantially to 61.6 percent, which is 4.1 percentage points higher than the March reading of 57.5 percent, reflecting growth for the 69th consecutive month at a faster rate. The New Orders Index registered 59.2 percent, 1.4 percentage points higher than the reading of 57.8 percent registered in March. The Employment Index increased 0.1 percentage point to 56.7 percent from the March reading of 56.6 percent and indicates growth for the 14th consecutive month. The Prices Index decreased 2.3 percentage points from the March reading of 52.4 percent to 50.1 percent, indicating prices increased in April for the second consecutive month, but at a slower rate. According to the NMI®, 14 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in April. The majority of respondents indicate that there has been an uptick in business activity due to the improved economic climate and prevailing stability in business conditions."

Unlike its much older kin, the ISM Manufacturing Series, there is relatively little history for ISM's Non-Manufacturing data, especially for the headline Composite Index, which dates from 2008. The chart below shows Non-Manufacturing Composite. We have only a single recession to gauge is behavior as a business cycle indicator.

The more interesting and useful subcomponent is the Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index. The latest data point at 61.6 percent is up from 57.5 the previous month.

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For a diffusion index, this can be an extremely volatile indicator, hence the addition of a six-month moving average to help us visualizing the short-term trends.

Theoretically, this indicator should become more useful as the timeframe of its coverage expands. Manufacturing may be a more sensitive barometer than Non-Manufacturing activity, but we are increasingly a services-oriented economy, which explains our intention to keep this series on the radar.

Here is a table showing trend in the underlying components.


Here is a link to our coverage of the latest ISM Manufacturing report.

Note: We use the FRED USRECP series (Peak through the Period preceding the Trough) to highlight the recessions in the charts above. For example, the NBER dates the last cycle peak as December 2007, the trough as June 2009 and the duration as 18 months. The USRECP series thus flags December 2007 as the start of the recession and May 2009 as the last month of the recession, giving us the 18-month duration. The dot for the last recession in the charts above are thus for November 2007. The "Peak through the Period preceding the Trough" series is the one FRED uses in its monthly charts, as illustrated here.

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