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ISM Non-Manufacturing: September Growth Continues to Slow

October 5, 2015

by Doug Short

Today the Institute for Supply Management published its latest Non-Manufacturing Report. The headline NMI Composite Index is at 56.9 percent, down 2.1 percent from last month's 59.0 percent. Today's number came in below the forecast of 57.5 percent.

Here is the report summary:

"The NMI® registered 56.9 percent in September, 2.1 percentage points lower than the August reading of 59 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector at a slower rate. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index decreased to 60.2 percent, which is 3.7 percentage points lower than the August reading of 63.9 percent, reflecting growth for the 74th consecutive month at a slower rate. The New Orders Index registered 56.7 percent, 6.7 percentage points lower than the reading of 63.4 percent in August. The Employment Index increased 2.3 percentage points to 58.3 percent from the August reading of 56 percent and indicates growth for the 19th consecutive month. The Prices Index decreased 2.4 percentage points from the August reading of 50.8 percent to 48.4 percent, indicating prices decreased in September for the first time since February of this year. According to the NMI®, 13 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in September. There has been a cooling off in the rate of growth during the month of September. Also, the trend of lower costs and little pricing power continues as reflected in the contraction of the pricing index. Overall, respondents continue to remain positive about current 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 60.2 percent is down from 63.9 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.