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ISM Non-Manufacturing: PMI Growth Continues at Faster Rate

April 5, 2016

by Jill Mislinski

Today the Institute for Supply Management published its latest Non-Manufacturing Report. The headline NMI Composite Index is at 54.5 percent, up 1.1 percent from last month's seasonally adjusted 53.4 percent. Today's number came in above the Investing.com forecast of 54.0 percent.

Here is the report summary:

"The NMI® registered 54.5 percent in March, 1.1 percentage points higher than the February reading of 53.4 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector at a slightly faster rate. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index increased to 59.8 percent, 2 percentage points higher than the February reading of 57.8 percent, reflecting growth for the 80th consecutive month, with a faster rate in March. The New Orders Index registered 56.7 percent, 1.2 percentage points higher than the reading of 55.5 percent in February. The Employment Index increased 0.6 percentage point to 50.3 percent from the February reading of 49.7 percent and indicates growth after a month of contraction. The Prices Index increased 3.6 percentage points from the February reading of 45.5 percent to 49.1 percent, indicating prices decreased in March for the fifth time in the last seven months. According to the NMI®, 12 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in March. The majority of respondents’ comments indicate that business conditions are mostly positive and that the economy is stable and will continue on a course of slow, steady growth."

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 59.8 percent is up from a seasonally adjusted 57.8 the previous month.

ISM Non-Manufacturing

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.