Saturday, February 8, 2014

8/2/2014: Services Index: Monthly Series December 2013

CSO released cheerful headlines for Irish Services Index, measuring activity in the largest part of the Irish economy.

Here's from the CSO release: "The seasonally adjusted monthly services value index increased by 1.3% in December 2013 when compared with November 2013 and there was an annual decrease of 1.5%."

Oops… things are up m/m and down y/y. But obviously the headline reads only the former, none of the latter.

"On a monthly basis, Information and Communication (+5.4%), Professional, Scientific and Technical Activities (+3.5%) and Administrative and Support Service Activities (+2.3%) showed increases when compared with November 2013.    Other Service Activities (-3.2%), Transportation and Storage (-1.6%), Accommodation and Food Service Activities (-1.1%) and Wholesale and Retail Trade (-1.0%), decreased when compared with November 2013."

Spot the problem? Controlling for ICT services (wait till Yahoo washes all its tax arbitrage through Dublin next) the only tangible, value-added activity that rose was Professional, Scientific and Technical Activities. We have no idea what drove this, but a rise here, excluding insolvency and mortgages arrears-related services and collection agencies would be helpful.

You really have to look at annual basis decomposition to see what is happening in the economy, though: "On an annual basis, Administrative and Support Service Activities (+27.7%), Information and Communication (+4.0%) and Accommodation and Food Service Activities (+2.4%) increased when compared with December 2012." That was is for increases: more paper pushing across tables, more back office supports and more adjoining ICT services. On the other hand, the rest of services are tanking: "Professional, Scientific and Technical Activities (-9.1%), Wholesale and Retail Trade (-8.2%), Transportation and Storage (-6.8%) and Other Service Activities (-6.5%) decreased when compared with December 2012."

So let's illustrate the above 'trends' in a few charts.

 Do keep in mind that, ex-ICT services, the Professional, Scientific and Technical Activities are our 'knowledge economy'. The trend here is down, down and down.

But now for the services sector overall:

The trend above is clearly showing a marked slowdown in activity in Q3-Q4 2013, just when we were being fed a steady diet of 'Things are Only Getting Better'. Am I missing something here? With all the ICT Services booming and all the Admin and Backoffice activities rising, we were supposed to get a strong retail season and a hopium-filled boost to domestic services too... But, apparently, we are having trouble recording these magnificent increases in the data?.. Oh, and do note, the data is in value terms, so inflation here is helping to push 'activity' up.

And the PMIs were booming too, for Services, just as the services activity was slipping?..

Next post will take a deeper look at the dynamics, controlling for monthly volatility. Stay tuned.

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