ISM Non-Manufacturing: Continued Growth in January

February 4, 2015

by Doug Short

Today the Institute for Supply Management published its latest Non-Manufacturing Report. The headline NMI Composite Index is at 56.7 percent, up slightly from last month's 56.5 percent. Today's number came in above the Investing.com forecast of 56.3.

Here is the report summary:

"The NMI® registered 56.7 percent in January, 0.2 percentage point higher than the December reading of 56.5 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index increased to 61.5 percent, which is 2.9 percentage points higher than the December reading of 58.6 percent, reflecting growth for the 66th consecutive month at a faster rate. The New Orders Index registered 59.5 percent, 0.3 percentage point higher than the reading of 59.2 percent registered in December. The Employment Index decreased 4.1 percentage points to 51.6 percent from the December reading of 55.7 percent and indicates growth for the eleventh consecutive month. The Prices Index decreased 4.3 percentage points from the December reading of 49.8 percent to 45.5 percent, indicating prices contracted in January when compared to December. According to the NMI®, eight non-manufacturing industries reported growth in January. Comments from respondents vary by industry and company; however, they are mostly positive and/or reflect stability about business conditions."

Like its much older kin, the ISM Manufacturing Series, I have been reluctant to focus on this collection of diffusion indexes. For one thing, 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.

In my view, the more interesting and useful subcomponent is the Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index. The latest data point at 61.5 percent is up from 58.6 the previous month.

Click to View
Click for a larger image

For a diffusion index, this can be an extremely volatile indicator. Thus I've added a three-month moving average to assist us in visualizing the short-term trends.

Theoretically, I believe, this indicator will 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 my intention to keep this series on the radar.

Here is a table showing trend in the underlying components.


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

Note : I 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.

Website by the Boston Web Company