Tuesday, February 9, 2016

9/2/16: Sales and Capex Weaknesses are Bad News for U.S. Jobs Growth

In a note from February 4, Moody Analytics have this two key messages about the U.S. economy, none pleasant:

  • Business sales are ‘mediocre’ outside energy sector, so that jobs growth singled by business sales outside energy sector should be slowing; and
  • Capex slowdown is about to smack jobs growth even further to the downside.

Take their numbers with a gulp of some oxygen.

Point 1: Business sales

The old-fashioned statistics don’t quite fudge stuff as well as the more modern hoopla about users, unique visits and signups deployed in the ICT sector. So here we go:

“Don’t fall into the trap of believing all is well outside of oil & gas. According to Bloomberg News, the 52% of the S&P 500 that has reported for 2015’s final quarter incurred over-year setbacks of -4.9% for sales and -5.7% for operating income. To a considerable degree, the declines were skewed lower by annual plunges of -34.2% for the sales and -64.2% for the operating profits of the latest sample’s 18 energy companies. For the 53% of the S&P 500’s non-energy companies that have reported for Q4-2015, sales barely rose by 0.6% annually, while the 2.6% increase by operating income fell considerably short of long-term profits growth of 6.5%.”

You’ve heard it right: in a recovery the U.S. is having, sales are up 0.6% y/y. Know of any real business that lives off something other than sales? I don’t.

Based on the Commerce Department broad estimate of business sales “that sums the sales of manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers. …even after excluding sales of identifiable energy products, what I refer to as core business sales posted annual increases of merely +2.1% for 2015 and +1.0% for Q4-2015”.

“…payrolls have been surprisingly resilient to the slowest growth by business sales excluding energy products since Q4-2009.” But, based on 3-mo average payrolls correlation with 12-mo average business sales data (estimated by Moody’s at 0.87), 2015 figures for sales suggest “…the average increase of private sector payrolls may descend from 2015’s 213,000 new jobs per month to 42,000 new jobs per month. Unless core business sales accelerate, 2016’s macro risks are most definitely to the downside.”

A handy chart:

Point 2: Capex headwind for jobs growth

“Business outlays on staff and capital spending are highly correlated. Over the past 33 years, the yearly percent change of payrolls revealed a strong correlation of 0.84 with the yearly percent change of real business investment spending.”

So, based on 2015 yearly increase in capital spending private sector payrolls “should have approximated 0.8% instead of the actual 1.9%. In other words, Q4-2015’s 1.6% yearly increase by real business investment spending favored a 91,000 average monthly increase by 2015’s payrolls, which was considerably less than the actual average monthly increase of 221,000 jobs.”

All of which puts into perspective what I wrote recently about the U.S. non farm payroll numbers here: http://trueeconomics.blogspot.com/2016/02/5216-three-facts-from-us-labor-markets.html

You really have to wonder, just how long can the U.S. economy continue raising the bar on additional bar staff hiring before choking on shortages of sales and capital investment?

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