Recession is OVER!!!

27 09 2010

Perhaps not all signs agree with the National Bureau of Economic Research that the recession ended in June 2009. It is pretty clear that the economy is still not as healthy as everyone would like.  Our unemployment rate is still hovering around 10%, and Mass Layoffs is trending in the right direction, but still high.  Looking at the chart below, it is clear that Mass Layoff events are declining (though there could be some other explanations as well) and getting closer to the roughly 1250 average during better times.

Housing starts are on the rise again, yet the DJIA has only recovered a little of the value from the losses from 2008 and early 2009.  While we may still may be feeling the effects of the recession, it is clear that most indications are moving in the right direction.





Mass Layoffs Jan 2010

1 03 2010

Sorry I have been a little short on blogs the last few weeks…

The US Department of Labor – Bureau of Statistics released the January Mass Layoff Events data for January.  I have been watching the Mass Layoff events for a while now for a couple of reasons, but primarily as a leading indicator of the economy.  I spoke last year a great deal how the number had exceeded 2000 events for 12 straight months and how this was most likely a sign of a protracted recovery period.   The January number was 1,761 which was roughly the same for the last three months.  While the move under 2,000 was at least a step in the right direction it appears as if we continue at an elevated rate.

Job creation is one of the primary keys to economic recovery and it seems as if we are still shedding above normal levels of jobs.   Continuing at 1,700+ events (which in Jan actually meant 180,000 claimants – or an annualized number of over 2 mil initial claimants.  The point is that I feel the economic climate is still contracting, though perhaps at now slower rates.

From a street level assessment I am starting to hear of more projects starting, consulting firms seems to be a little more optimistic outlook for the year, and less people concerned about their current state.





Mass Layoffs Nov 2009

23 12 2009

Yesterday, the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics released the November Mass Layoff Report.  The news was upbeat in that the trend continues to get better (meaning fewer mass layoff events) with only 1,797 events.  We have spoken about 2,000 events as being extremely high and November was the first time in the last 14 months that the number dropped below 2,000.  The bad news is this is still higher than 80% of the monthly numbers since 1999 so the numbers are again not positive, just less negative.

One bit of interesting news is that the number of layoffs (officially claimants) per event was at one of its lowest levels since the beginning of 1999.  This means that while the number of layoff events is still high, there were fewer claimants per event (fewer people laid off or more found something else), or that instead of 200,000 claimants, we saw only 165,346.  This number is a healthier indicator than the number of events (see the dotted red lines in the chart below and compare the crimson line and the blue line from the chart above).





Consumer Price Index Nov 2009

16 12 2009

Today the BLS released the Consumer Price Index (CPI).  The news is a little upbeat, but again it is based on energy prices driving the index.  The rest of the field is a little flat.  Overall the CPI rose .4% with Energy jumping 4.1%.

What is more interesting in news around this is that housing starts are on the rise and the stock market is up this morning on the announcement of the CPI data.

Stocks rise ahead of Fed decision





Employment Situation November 2009

7 12 2009

On Friday, the BLS released the Employment Situation report.  Everyone jumped on the news that the unemployment rate actually dropped for the first time in months.  While this is a great indicator, the basis for the jump was an increase in temporary help and healthcare jobs.  With Christmas looming,  I fear this is an artificial indicator as this is temporary help for a season that requires more than normal levels of help.  We need a number of industries adding jobs for this report to be positive, until then it is just a little less negative.

We lost 11,000 jobs compared to the 130,000 that Wall Street expected.  Or perhaps we have cut so many jobs the last few months, that we could not find a place to cut anymore.  I am also curious if this isn’t a little manipulated either in timing or impact as the President has been calling for job creation.

What I would really like to see out of Congress and the White House are very specific plans around job creation.  Just like a company saying we want to see 20% growth, yet not laying out the specific marketing, sales, and operational plans to get there it is all just hope.  And hope is not strategy.





Analytics Process

23 11 2009

Over the last couple of months I have been writing about a handful of US Economic Indicators.  While I have reviewed these over the last few years of my life, I had not done so on a regular basis.  This inconsistent and let’s call it a casual curiosity lead to never really understanding the implications behind the numbers.  Sure I could talk about them, but I could not leverage them.  While not an expert by any means, I can see a lot more now than I did when I started this blog series.

This is similar to ad-hoc analysis without purpose.  We do something once and create a little hype.  When we don’t have any vehicle to take advantage of the newly found ideas, the idea dies as does the learning.

Think about the process of how you handle ad-hoc analytics within your organization:

  • Do you have the right minds constantly looking for new issues?
  • Or, do you put the right minds on solving issues when they arise?
  • Can you name your best analytical minds?  Are they assigned to thought leadership and problem solving?
  • Do you use your analytical minds to challenge the knowledge levels of others?
  • How do you foster new thinking?

 

Consistency breeds familiarity, and familiarity breeds knowledge





Consumer Price Index – October 2009

20 11 2009

Yesterday the US Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics released the October report on the US Consumer Price Index (CPI).  Not all that surprisingly, the number rose .27% following last months .17% growth.  This marks the six straight month of growth in the CPI and that the Index is returning to the trend line prior to the October disruption.

In the chart below are two parallel lines marking a rough trend of the CPI.  It appears as if the steady growth rate is returning.  This is at least an indication that the economy is stabilizing.





Producer Price Index October 2009

18 11 2009

Yesterday’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) release of the Produce Price Index (PPI) saw prices moving north again, this time a .3% gain compared to last months .6% loss.  The numbers seem to be stabilizing (one month a little up, on month a little down).  Looking into a little more depth we see that Energy and Food are the primary drivers.

If you are looking for more information relevant to your industry – check out www.bls.gov/ppi/.  They break out the information a number of different ways.

 

 





Employment Situation Oct 2009

6 11 2009

The employment situation continues to demonstrate the frailty of the current economic climate.  In Sept the unemployment rate was 9.8%, Friday it was announced that Oct witnessed this number increase to 10.2%.  “This is the highest rate since April 1983.”  We are also at the second highest point (and growing) in the history of tracking the data – 1948.

(Here is the link to the commissioner’s report to Congress and the original report)

Employment Situation Oct 2009

If we look at a visual of the informtion, a number of things jump out at least to me:

1.  The Good, it looks like (at least to me) the higher the number, or the swifter the increase, the quicker the the unemployment rate drops.  There appears to be a natural slope (green line – A) to the decline in the the unemployment rate after a spike, which then is followed by a less gradual slope that marks a return to a healthy market (red line – B).  In roughly 1975 and again in 1983 we saw two spikes which then followed the green line’s slope – except in the case of 1983, we actually saw that trend bear out over the longer term, yet moved faster during the initial recovery period (reb box).

2. The Bad – if this follows the trend pattern of 1983 we may be looking at another 7-8 year recovery process to return the unemployment rate to around 6% which roughly appears to be natural healthy level.

3. The Ugly – We have yet to see the peak of this trend.  And even if this does turn around in the next month or two, we are so bad a shape across so many other sectors it may take far longer for us to return to a 6% unemployment rate.  If we continue to see credit tighten up at the rate it is going, we will see continued pressure on unemployment.





Price of Oil

27 10 2009

One of the biggest impacts to the US economy is the cost of oil.  We are still the leading consumers, though our lead is being taken over by China.  It is no surprise that the price of oil/gas can either fuel US economic growth, or bring it to a crawl.  I remember (somewhat fuzzy) as a kid waiting in line for gas, and I sold my Ford Expedition in fear that gas was going to see $5/gallon last year. While perhaps I sold the car a little prematurely, the basic fundamental truth about the control of the price of oil is well beyond me. And in someways beyond any of us.

OPEC mostly gets away with what it wants in terms of prices, and China is clearly working to leverage its relations with OPEC countries to improve its position.  While this isn’t necessarily bad for the US, we do lose some of our bargaining power.  And as China continues to increase demand, it drives up market prices.

I am going to try to add the Price of Oil to the Baumohl Indicator series on a bi-weekly basis.  My goal is to continue to explore some of the indicators of US Economic Performance and how they impact business cycles.





Mass Layoffs Sept 2009

22 10 2009

The Bureau of Labor Statistics today announced the Mass Layoffs from September.  The number of events (more than 50 people laid off) is down a little from August, but we are still seeing much larger levels than normal.  The September number of 2,561 layoff events is roughly 2x the normal average.

This is a slight sign the economy may be bottoming out.  What is still disturbing here is the consistency of the level of mass layoffs.  For the last 12 months (see blue box in chart) we have had over 2,000 events per month compared to a normal level of 1,250.  We are still adding too many people to the unemployed – and a system that is built to run on full employment.  Over the last 20 years we have only seen two other spikes, yet in both of those periods we only saw a brief period of spike.  And again in neither of those cases did we ever reach 2,500 events.  Over the last 12 months we have seen 5 months in excess of 2,500 events.  Not good news on any front.

Quite soon, we need to see a substantial drop in Mass Layoffs to give us a positive  indicator that the economy is turning around.  We see a good number of positive signs, but this one is still a big red flag.  Again, if we look at the post 9/11 trend you can tell this trend tapers back to normal.  Mass Layoff Events Sept 2009





Producer Price Index Sept 09

20 10 2009

This morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the September 2009 Producer Price Index report.  The PPI dropped a little this month mostly due to cost of gas declines (0.6% decline).  In August we saw a significant increase at 1.7% raises a little alarm in that the fluctuations are evident.  The fact that most of this is based on energy prices swinging is both a little calming and potential for more signs that oil prices are moving too much.

“Wholesale prices in the U.S. unexpectedly fell in September on lower fuel costs, a sign inflation remains muted and the Federal Reserve has leeway to keep borrowing costs low as the economy recovers.”  Bloomberg

What does this mean to me: we will probably not see much increase in prices over the coming months (keep watching the price of oil/gas).  This is also a sign that while some of the recent indicators have been good, we might see a lull in the recovery process.

As a part of this series, I am also going to add the price of oil.  It was not one of the Baumohl Indicators, but I think that might have been because it comes out of the financial markets.





The Dow (DJIA) hits 10,000

16 10 2009

On Wednesday this week (October 14, 2009) the Dow Jones Industrial Average topped 10,000.  Although it struggled out of the gate this morning, I am curious why we did not take the time to celebrate re-reaching this milestone.  Clearly, this is a sign that the economy is chugging forward again.

If we look back to September 19th, 2008, the DJIA closed at 11,388 and only days away from near free fall.  Over the next couple of days, panic would set in and the markets were paralleled to “The Great Depression.”  The DJIA at 10k represents we have recovered 70% of what we lost since September 19th, 2008.  We still have a way to go, but a little celebration might just be what we need right now.  Not much, we can’t afford the hangover, but perhaps a little toast to reaching 10k again and may we keep doing a little better every day.

Looking back…Between Oct 24th, 2007 and September 19th, 2008, the DJIA shed about 20% of its value (14,093 to 11,388).  It would then lose an additional 34.4% by March 9th 2009 when the market reached its lowest level in 12 years at 6,547.  If we start the clock at Oct 24th, in two years we have recovered about 45% of the losses we incurred during the recession of 2008 and 2009.  Perhaps not as happy a picture, but consistent progress in the right direction.  This still represents ~50% recovery in 6 months, what we lost over two years.  If the trend holds, perhaps we are back to 2007 levels within another 6-8 months, and then can continue to recover on the lost time.

DJIA Recovery

The other item worth noting is the declining variation in the closing gains.  Over the last three months, the variability has diminished to levels not seen during the recession.  This is another great sign indicator of stability and overall economic health.  The market likes gains, but it loves consistency.

DJIA Recovery Variation





Consumer Price Index Sept 2009

15 10 2009

The CPI for September was released today.  Nothing all that surprising – it looks like the rebound last month towards a positive trend (perhaps not for everyone), or an upward trend continued for a second month.  It appears as if the trend may be resetting with a 1.3% drop from where we were in Sept 2008.

CPI History 1997

How to use this information:  Have your internal statistician look at CPI (and PPI) and see if they give you any early warning signs against some of your variable costs – raw materials, finished goods, average selling price, etc.

  • Does CPI move with your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), or your margins?
  • Could it give you a one month warning to tighten the belts a little bit?
  • What is the impact on your average selling price?
  • Do your customers move faster than you?

Historical Trends

If we look at this from a historical perspective, we can tell there has been a stead upward trend since the mid 60’s.  The variability was pretty consistent from the mid 60’s through 2004, then in 2005 it looks like the variability began to increase.  These charts don’t provide us much actionable information, but show us the trend has been consistent, and that there was a disruption with the recent economic conditions.  This disruption is what is highlighted in the earlier part of this blog.

CPI History 1913





Employment Situation Sept 2009

6 10 2009

Statement of Keith Hall, Commissioner, Bureau of Labor Statistics before the Joint Economic Committee UNITED STATES CONGRESS (PDF of his speech, or PDF of the actual report)

Job losses continued in September, and the unemployment
rate continued to trend up, reaching 9.8 percent. Nonfarm
payroll employment fell by 263,000 over the month, and losses
have averaged 307,000 per month since May. Payroll employment
has fallen for 21 consecutive months, with declines totaling 7.2
million. In September, notable job losses occurred in
construction, manufacturing, government, and retail trade.
Construction employment decreased by 64,000 in September.
Job losses averaged 66,000 per month from May through September,
2
compared with an average of 117,000 per month from November 2008
through April.

“Job losses continued in September, and the unemployment rate continued to trend up, reaching 9.8 percent. Nonfarm payroll employment fell by 263,000 over the month, and losses have averaged 307,000 per month since May. Payroll employment has fallen for 21 consecutive months, with declines totaling 7.2 million. In September, notable job losses occurred in construction, manufacturing, government, and retail trade.

Construction employment decreased by 64,000 in September. Job losses averaged 66,000 per month from May through September, compared with an average of 117,000 per month from November 2008 through April.”





Mass Layoffs August 2009

24 09 2009

Yesterday the Mass Layoff report was issued by the United States Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The data here is interesting in a few ways.  The Mass Layoff report highlights the number of events where 50 or people were laid off by the same firm.

  • Perhaps a little good news for the US economy
  • A little analytics lesson

First off, the US Economy.  We can look at a couple of things here that probably tell us the situation is still bad, but perhaps another indicator that we are rebounding.  In the first chart, the bars represent the events (not total layoffs – but the numbers are highly related).  You can see that the number for August appears to be quite a bit better than July and the previous 12 months, but August is also lower in general.  When you consider the raw volume of the last 12 months, perhaps we just ran out of people to layoff.  My initial assessment is that while it looks like we are heading in the right direction, we may just be witnessing the normal August dip.  Call it cautious optimism.

Aug 2009 Mass Layoff Peaks

Now looking at the data from a visual standpoint…below is how we typically look at this type of data.  Here we would conclude that things look like we have hit bottom and are moving in the right direction.

Aug 2009 Mass Layoff Raw Data1

Yet if we look a little more closely at the data above (and perhaps dig at some of the underlying regional or industry data) we can make a lot of different potential comments.

  • We are coming out of a major event – any data is going to be a little blurry.  Any investments are going to be risky, but with that risk comes the upside reward of potentially being a first mover.
  • The general trend might be improving, but the volumes are still way above normal levels.  How long can we continue to shed people like we have for the last 12 months?
  • The peaks and troughs also show that we are still greater than 2x normal levels.  Clearly, there are still problems in the economy.




Consumer Price Index (CPI) August 2009

16 09 2009

Here is this morning’s press release of the August 2009.  It is a great example of how not to explain complex data.  Here are opening two paragraphs.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U) rose 0.4
percent in August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The index has decreased 1.5 percent
over the last 12 months on a not seasonally adjusted basis.
The 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted increase in the CPI-U was driven by a 9.1 percent rise in the
gasoline index. This increase accounted for almost the entire advance in the energy index and over 80
percent of the overall increase. Despite the August increase, the gasoline index has fallen 30.0 percent
over the last 12 months.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U) rose 0.4 percent in August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The index has decreased 1.5 percent over the last 12 months on a not seasonally adjusted basis.
The 0.4 percent seasonally adjusted increase in the CPI-U was driven by a 9.1 percent rise in thegasoline index. This increase accounted for almost the entire advance in the energy index and over 80 percent of the overall increase. Despite the August increase, the gasoline index has fallen 30.0 percent over the last 12 months.

In general, the CPI numbers are all over the place as a result of a rebounding economy.  It is also a great example of why we need to look at individual numbers and come up with an executive overview of what this means.

Over the next couple of days, I will add more analysis here as I can dig into the numbers in greater detail.  There is a ton of information here.





Producer Price Index (PPI) August 2009

15 09 2009

As part of my Baumohl series on US Indicators, here is the press release on the August PPI data.  The PPI (Finished Goods) increased a seasonally adjusted 1.7% in August.  July saw a .9% decrease and June a 1.8% increase.

So what?

If we are looking for signs for the economy it is a good sign that things are again improving.  If we look at the last 12 months, 8 of the 12 months saw declines in the PPI including 5 straight months from Aug 08 through Dec 08.  4 of the last 5 months have seen positive advances.

What about Cost of Goods sold?  I would certainly expect some industries to see their COGS rate start to increase.  If we remember back to late 2007 and early 2008, ingredient prices started to rise dramatically.  See the chart below and notice the area where the PPI was elevated quite a bit about the trend line.

Aug 2009 PPI History

What does it mean to your business?  It clearly depends on the industry and your ability to act on external data.  If you are a bread manufacturer and your margins are pretty lean, you might need to look somewhere to balance your expense ratios.

Investing?  Look at your portfolio.  What industries are you invested in?  How does the PPI impact those companies?  If we are seeing the trend return to perhaps the elevated levels of late 07 / early 08, perhaps there are some solid opportunities?  Look at how those companies did during those time frames in terms of performance?





Employment Situation Aug 2009

9 09 2009

This is a new series of blogs in which I will call out and blog on a number of economic indicators based upon the musings of Bernard Baumohl in The Secrets of Economic Indicators.  In this series, I will work to provide a visual or two to explain the situation as well as a link to the press release.  The goal will be to post a blog covering the reported data and to build out a series of informational charts based upon the data.

Employment Situation is one of the more important indicators of US Economic health, and perhaps even more so in this economic climate.  It provides us an indication if the economy is expanding, or contracting in terms of jobs and therefor money to be spent.  Here is the press release from 9/4/09 which is August 2009 data.

Key points (from press release):

  • Non-Farm payroll employment declined by 219,000
  • Unemployment increased by 466,000 to 14.9 million
  • Unemployment increased to 9.7% (up .3%)
  • While job losses continued, the losses are not as bad as the months before
Aug 2009 Unemployment Data by gender and race

Aug 2009 Unemployment Data by gender and race

Analysis:  We are still losing jobs in the economy.  Teenagers are at almost 2.5x the national average, and minorites having 2x the increase as the average.

Risk:  While we have some indications that the recession is getting better, it is clear we have some elements that still have some ways to go.  If your business is targeted at teenagers and/or minorities you may want to plan for sales to remain weak until the trend at least turns back to positive growth.