The Atlanta Fed's SouthPoint offers commentary and observations on various aspects of the region's economy.
The blog's authors include staff from the Atlanta Fed’s Regional Economic Information Network and Public Affairs Department.
Postings are weekly.
A Timely Talk with Energy Professionals
If you read or watch the news, you've undoubtedly noticed what's happening with the price of oil. But for those of you who may have missed these reports, here it is in a nutshell: the price of Brent crude oil, the international benchmark, has declined more than 40 percent since its peak of over $115 in mid-June (see the chart).
Many reports have discussed what the decline means to the energy industry and economy as a whole. In fact, the Atlanta Fed's very own macroblog published a post that examined the impact on energy investment and overall economic growth. We were also fortunate to be able to discuss this important and timely situation, along with other industry trends, with energy sector representatives last month during our Energy Advisory Council meeting held at the New Orleans Branch. So what did council members think about the declining price of oil? I gleaned a few key takeaways.
Council members reported that the recent drop in the price of oil had led exploration and production firms to reevaluate operational flexibility, cost-management strategies, and extraction technologies. These firms also initiated renegotiations with oilfield service companies for reductions to pricing structures, which a recent report suggested may drop as much as 20 percent.
In addition, council members conveyed their expectation that marginal oil producers may be negatively affected by falling oil prices, as their breakeven point is typically much higher than the larger producers. They shared that foreign oil-producing countries that acquire a majority of their revenues from the world's most traded commodity may also be adversely affected, which is a known concern among many key people inside the industry. The council also pointed out that if oil prices continued to decline or even hold at current levels, capital spending may be affected since firms would have fewer profits to reinvest into production and growth. Some reports indicate that this effect on spending is already beginning to occur. However, some members told us that they anticipate continued steady production in both deepwater and onshore drilling since many of these projects are large scale and long term and have high front-end costs (which in many cases have already been funded). Decisions about future projects may need to be reconsidered, however.
All in all, the Energy Advisory Council meeting was very timely, considering our attempts to understand what was happening globally with the price of oil and its impact on the economy. It will be interesting to learn how the energy industry will have adapted to current events when the council convenes again in March 2015.
By Rebekah Durham, economic policy analysis specialist in the Atlanta Fed's New Orleans Branch
A Closer Look at Earnings in the Southeast
It is widely accepted that average incomes can vary from location to location. A look at recent data on average earnings by state compiled by the Regional Economic Analysis Project demonstrates the variability in average earnings among Southeast states. Average earnings in all six states in the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s district fall below the national average. Within the district, average wages are notably higher in Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee than in Mississippi, and they are somewhat higher than in Alabama and Florida (see the chart).
Average wages largely reflect the mix of jobs in the state, and so the differences across states partly reflect differences in the industry mix as noted in this report. The table below shows the industry mix of employment among Southeast states:
We might expect to see similarities in average wages across state lines within a particular industry, but in fact average earnings also vary considerably from state to state among almost every broad sector (see the table; figures highlighted in yellow are above the national average):
This information suggests that there is also a lot of variation across states in other factors such as the types of jobs and the mixture of types of businesses within the industry. In fact, the industry categories used here are rather broad and probably encompass a wide range of possible job and business types.
The preceding gives a snapshot of the earnings picture in the region at a point in time. Another perspective is to look at the pattern of earnings over time.
In the chart below, we show for each state a ratio of per-worker wages to the national average. This ratio allows us to see how state wages have compared to the national trend over time (a reading above 1.0 for a given state indicates wages per employee are higher than the national wage per employee measure).
Several things jump out at you as you look at the chart. Once again, per-worker wages among Sixth District states have been below the national level during the last three decades. (The exception is Louisiana, which saw a run-up in wages that coincided with the sharp rise in oil prices in the late 1970s, followed by a sharp drop as the oil industry went bust.) Also, you can see the rise in wages following Hurricane Katrina’s landfall on August 29, 2005.
Wages in Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee were very similar from the late 1980s until the early 1990s, when all three (to varying degrees) experienced a decline in wages. Much of this decline coincided with the decline in manufacturing jobs that took place during this time and affected the entire region. The nondurable manufacturing sector, which accounted for nearly half of all manufacturing jobs in the region (but only about 40 percent of manufacturing jobs nationally), was particularly hard hit as many textile and apparel firms shifted jobs outside the United States after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was implemented on January 1, 1994 (as noted here and here). It wasn’t until the early 2000s that wages across much of the region began to rise. This period coincided with improvements in the manufacturing sector, driven by the durable sector as the automotive industry moved more production to the region, as noted in this paper, and new home production increased as well, particularly in Florida. The subsequent bust in the housing market later in the decade put downward pressure on wages, most notably in Florida.
Average Georgia wages grew strongly during the 1980s and very nearly equaled the national level from the mid-1980s to early 2000s. A striking feature is how Georgia has lost ground relative to the United States since about 2000. Interestingly, this decline in relative performance coincided with a sharp retrenchment in employment in the information technology industry from December 1993 to October 2000. Employment in the relatively high-paying information sector grew by 57 percent in Atlanta (a city that represented about 55 percent of Georgia’s employment base at the time), but by January 2005 employment in that sector had shrunk by 23 percent. Weaker demand for workers in the technology sector may have contributed to declining average wages in Georgia relative to the United States during the early 2000s even as relative wages were rising elsewhere in the region.
Since the end of the Great Recession, wages per worker have varied across the region, with the overall effect being flat to slightly falling average wages compared with the national trend.
So wages vary by location, and the industry and occupational mix clearly influences these differences. Moreover, over time, shocks (both positive and negative) to a particular industry can have a strong influence on average wage growth within a state.
By Whitney Mancuso, a senior economic analyst, both of the Atlanta Fed's research
Has Southeast Manufacturing Found Some Optimism?
Have you ever lost your car keys? How about your wallet? I hate looking for things. I was never one to enjoy an Easter egg hunt. It's maddening when I can't find something. Lately in SouthPoint, I've been searching for a little optimism coming from the manufacturing sector. Following a string of strong reports from the Southeast purchasing managers index (PMI), optimism among manufacturers in the Southeast deteriorated significantly in October. According to the October PMI report, only 21 percent of manufacturers expected production levels to be higher during the next three to six months, down 29 percentage points from the prior month's reading. I was wringing my hands trying to figure out whether the weakness in October was an anomaly or a sign of something deeper. So did the November report disappoint me? No: the November Southeast PMI report, released on December 5, indicated that optimism is back.
The Atlanta Fed's research department uses the Southeast PMI to track regional manufacturing activity. Produced by the Econometric Center at Kennesaw State University, the survey analyzes current market conditions for the manufacturing sector in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The PMI is based on a survey of representatives from manufacturing companies in those states and analyzes trends concerning new orders, production, employment, supplier delivery times, and inventory levels. A reading above 50 indicates that manufacturing activity is expanding, and a reading below 50 indicates that activity is contracting.
Most underlying variables in the November PMI report were generally positive (see the chart). Despite decreases in the new orders and production subindexes, the PMI increased to 58.3 in November, which was a 1.8 point rise compared with October.
- The new orders subindex decreased 3.4 points from October but remained above 60.0 points for the third consecutive month with a reading of 61.0.
- The production subindex fell 7.6 points compared to the previous month, but similar to the new orders subindex, it remained close to 60.0 points, registering 59.8.
- The employment subindex rose significantly, increasing 9.8 points over October. November's 64.6 is the highest reading for the employment subindex since June 2013.
- The supplier deliveries subindex rose 2.5 points over October. The rise suggests that purchasing agents are experiencing longer wait times to receive materials they ordered.
- The finished inventory subindex rose 7.4 points compared with October and now reads 48.8. The rise completely reversed last month's fall of 5.7 points.
- The commodity prices subindex rose to 52.4, a 1.5 point increase compared with October.
As I mentioned above, optimism rose significantly in November over October levels. When asked for their production expectations over the next three to six months, 51 percent of survey participants expected production to be higher in that period.
Along with the strong Southeast PMI reading, the national PMI also continued to register strong readings, reaching 58.7 points in November. (Note that the Southeast PMI is not a subset of the national PMI.) Now that optimism is back on the right track, manufacturing looks to close out 2014 on a strong note. And most importantly, I don't have to keep looking for optimism.
By Troy Balthrop, a senior Regional Economic Information Network analyst in the Atlanta Fed's Nashville Branch
WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?!
BLACK FRIDAY! Black Friday has historically been the day that retailers wait for all year long. It's the day when merchants hope to move from the red to the black column (hence the name). However, I as a consumer have often avoided going to the stores on this infamous day for two reasons: one, big crowds give me the heebie-jeebies, and two, I am usually working the day after Thanksgiving—doing regional economic analysis but also preparing the Jacksonville Branch for the upcoming holiday season.
As I sit here penning this post, I am steeling myself for what lies ahead: I have to brave the crowds today, Black Friday 2014, to purchase a few last-minute items to complete the holiday transformation of the branch. When I decided to go on this shopping trip with my colleague, Barb, neither of us realized what kind of day it would be...goodness, what were we thinking?!
So, we put on our armor and headed out into the madness. Here are a few pictures I took of what we encountered just trying to get to the store and find a parking space.
Well, I'm happy to report that Barb and I survived our shopping excursion! But I'm also delighted to discuss the survival of retailers, since a successful Black Friday is vital to the retail industry. According to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) Thanksgiving Weekend Expectations survey, approximately 140 million shoppers were likely to take advantage of deals during the Thanksgiving weekend. Of this number, 67.6 million shoppers said they would actually shop, and 72.5 million would take a wait-and-see attitude to judge whether the deals offered were worth the trip to the stores. The NRF also noted that merchants would have to come up with amazing deals to induce consumers to spend, given that retail has been so heavily discounted since the start of the recession.
So what was the condition of the consumer going into this past holiday weekend? According to third quarter results from the New York Fed's Report on Household Debt and Credit, household debt and mortgage balances were up and credit for auto loans and credit cards increased, all pointing to more freely spending households.
Personal savings rate data from October represent further evidence that the consumer is willing to spend. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the personal savings rate is personal saving (disposable personal income less personal outlays) as a percentage of disposable personal income. Prior to the release of October data, the savings rate appeared to show people saving more. However, revised data indicate that the savings rate has remained about the same since the beginning of the year, September's rate was revised down from 5.6 percent to 5.0 percent (see the chart). It would appear that people are not saving as much as previously thought, which bodes well for retailers.
We have heard from some District contacts that the lower gasoline prices have freed up some discretionary dollars, with consumers taking advantage of the extra cash in their pockets, which benefits retailers. Although the consumer seems to be well positioned to spend, how they feel matters as well. We can gauge this by looking at consumer confidence measures such as the Conference Board's present situation survey and the University of Michigan's current economic conditions survey. However, these surveys represent different points of view. The Conference Board is interested in the consumer's opinion of overall economic conditions as they relate to businesses and jobs, and the University of Michigan focuses its attention on the individual's current condition as it relates to his or her household. For the purpose of this post, let's examine the individual consumer's stance on current conditions. The University of Michigan's current economic conditions index rose from 98.3 points in October to 102.7 in November, the highest it's been since July 2007 (see the chart). It appears that the consumer is feeling pretty good these days.
So how does all this suggest consumers' greater willingness to spend? Let's look at it this way: Personal debt is rising; people are saving less; people are spending; and retail sales are (hopefully) up.
Now that Black Friday has come and gone, the NRF has released its preliminary results, which show the number of shoppers dropped this year. Given that Black Friday still draws the biggest crowds of the Thanksgiving weekend—and the weekend also includes Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday—it should be interesting to see what the retail sales data (released on January 14, 2015) say about the success of the holiday weekend.
Until then, Season's Greetings, everyone—and happy shopping!
By Christine Viets, a senior Regional Economic Information Network analyst in the Jacksonville Branch of the Atlanta Fed
Southeast Commercial Construction Continues Gathering Steam
Through September 2014, U.S. total private construction spending increased 3.38 percent from the year-earlier level. How did the various categories stack up in terms of their contribution to this year-over-year increase in total private construction spending? The multifamily and nonresidential categories together accounted for 4.34 percent of the change, and new single-family and residential improvements combined to shave 0.96 percent off the change (see the chart).
Does commercial construction activity in the Southeast mirror that of the nation? On a quarterly basis, the Atlanta Fed polls southeastern business contacts engaged in commercial construction to track and better understand regional trends in construction activity. The latest poll results appear to tell a story similar to the one that the national numbers depict.
Most respondents indicated that the pace of nonresidential construction activity and the pace of multifamily construction activity in the Southeast continued to be ahead of the year-earlier level (see the charts).
More than 80 percent of respondents reported a backlog that was similar to or greater than the year-earlier level, signaling that the pipeline of future activity remains fairly robust (see the chart).
The number of respondents reporting that the amount of available credit met or exceeded demand continued to increase from earlier reports. In the third quarter of 2014, 82 percent of contacts indicated that credit was sufficiently available, compared with 68 percent the previous quarter and 78 percent one year earlier (see the chart).
While half of respondents noted that they expect their headcount to remain the same from this quarter to the next, 44 percent of respondents indicated that they were planning to do a modest to significant amount of hiring in the fourth quarter of 2014 (see the chart).
Relative to the previous quarter, fewer contacts indicated that they were having a difficult time filling positions (see the chart).
Most contacts reported some degree of upward pressure on labor costs. When looking across the brackets of labor cost increases, most of the pressure seemed to be concentrated in the category indicating that labor costs are up from 3 to 4 percent versus a year ago. This response marks a shift from prior periods, when the pressure appeared concentrated in the bracket indicating that labor costs were up from 1 to 3 percent. Continuing a trend that we’ve noted over the past few quarters, a growing share of contacts (more than 80 percent) indicated that their labor costs had increased more than 3 percent from year-earlier level (see chart).
The next poll will open on January 5, 2015. If you are a commercial contractor and would like to participate in this poll, please let us know by sending a note to RealEstateCenter@atl.frb.org.
Note: Third quarter 2014 poll results were collected October 6–15, 2014, and are based on responses from 18 business contacts. Participants in this poll included general contractors, subcontractors, lenders, developers, and material fabricators with footprints of varying sizes across the Southeast.
By Jessica Dill, senior economic research analyst in the Atlanta Fed's research department
Employment Momentum Grows in Florida and the Retail Sector
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published October 2014 state-level labor market data on November 21. For Sixth District states, a couple of factors stood out. First, after several months of anemic job growth, Florida employers added lots of jobs. In fact, Florida contributed 61 percent of October's net payrolls to the region. Second, although job gains were solid in a number of sectors, retail shined with 13,300 jobs added on net across the District, a figure that represents nearly half of the 27,100 jobs added to the sector in the entire United States in October. These regional retail job growth data confirm what the folks in our Regional Economic Information Network described earlier this month in their recap of economic intelligence gathered from business contacts across the Southeast: retailers anticipate strong holiday sales, and this anticipation translated into robust seasonal hiring in the retail sector in October.
A summary of the payroll and unemployment data for Sixth District states sheds more light on recent activity.
Payrolls flex some muscle
Employers in all Sixth District states except Mississippi added to payrolls: 56,600 jobs were added on net (see the chart). Florida dominated aggregate net gains in October, adding 34,400 jobs on net. Most of these gains came from the leisure and hospitality sector (up 9,300). Big contributors to Florida gains also included the educational and health services (up 9,000), professional and business services (up 6,100), and goods-producing sectors (up 5,100). (The good-producing sector was up 6,200 payrolls from construction alone but was reduced by losses in manufacturing.)
The sectors with payroll additions varied by state, though gains in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector were prevalent, with 16,800 net jobs added. Gains in this sector were dominated by retail trade (see the chart), which was the only sector tracked by all states that added jobs in every Sixth District state in October. This increase is typical for October, as retailers gear up for the holidays.
Employment momentum in the retail sector has been building for most of the region's states for a few months now (see the chart).
District gains in the professional and business services sector were also sizeable, with 13,100 jobs added. Momentum in this sector has been building in district states (see the chart). However, two states subtracted jobs from this sector in October: Louisiana (down 1,200) and Mississippi (down 1,500).
A few other facts about the Sixth District's October payrolls and sectors are noteworthy:
- Alabama added 2,200 jobs on net. The leisure and hospitality (up 3,200) and professional and business services (up 1,400) sectors were the top contributors. The biggest losses occurred in the government (down 1,500); trade, transportation, and utilities (down 600); and financial activities (down 500) sectors.
- In Florida, aside from job gains mentioned above, payrolls fell in the information (down 2,100) and financial activities (down 100) sectors.
- Employers in Georgia added 11,600 jobs on net. The largest gains occurred in trade, transportation, and utilities (up7,900, with 4,700 of those payrolls from wholesale trade) and professional and business services (up 5,400). The biggest losses came from government (down 3,200) and financial activities (down 1,200).
- Louisiana added 1,200 payrolls on net, most of which came from the trade, transportation, and utilities (up 1,500) sector. That sector was up 2,900 from retail trade, reduced by losses in wholesale trade) and educational and health services (up 1,200) sectors. The biggest losses occurred in leisure and hospitality (down 2,600) and professional and business services (down 1,200).
- Mississippi was the only district state to subtract payrolls from the aggregate district figure. The largest losses came from the professional and business services (down 1,500) and government (down 700) sectors. The only gains occurred in the educational and health services (up 1,300), leisure and hospitality (up 500), and trade, transportation, and utilities (up 400) sectors.
- Tennessee employers increased payrolls by 7,900 on net. The largest increases occurred in the trade, transportation, and utilities (up 3,500) and professional and business services (up 2,900) sectors. The biggest losses occurred in educational and health services (down 700) and leisure and hospitality (down 400) sectors.
Regional unemployment declines, if only slightly
The aggregate district unemployment rate was 6.6 percent in October, a decline of 0.2 percentage point from September (see the chart).
The rate fell in all states except for Louisiana, where it increased to 6.2 percent from 6.0 percent the previous month and was the sixth straight month of an increasing unemployment rate in that state. As I reported last month, this isn't necessarily a bad thing in the short run, since the state added jobs yet appears to have increased its labor force participation rate.
The unemployment rate fell in all remaining District states. Alabama's rate fell 0.3 percentage point in October to 6.3, its lowest rate in nine months. Florida's rate fell 0.1 percentage point to 6.0 percent, the lowest it's been in more than six years. The unemployment rate in Georgia fell for the second month in a row, to 7.7 percent in October from 7.9 percent in September. Though Georgia's unemployment rate declined, it had the highest rate in the United States in October for the third month in a row, at 7.7 percent. Mississippi's rate declined 0.1 percentage point to 7.6 percent, the lowest it's been in six months. In Tennessee the unemployment rate was 7.1 percent, a 0.2 percentage point decline from September.
So once again, collectively, the Sixth District states' labor market showed continued strengthening in October, particularly the state of Florida and the retail sector.
Hopefully, this progress continues for the month of November. We'll see when the data are released on December 19.
By Rebekah Durham, economic policy analysis specialist in the New Orleans Branch of the Atlanta Fed
Conditions Soften for Southeastern Housing
The Atlanta Fed's latest poll of regional residential brokers and homebuilders shows an increase in the number of contacts reporting softening home sales and construction activity. The two charts below show indexes near or below zero.
This softening appears to be the result of normal seasonal factors, but even so, it seems a good time to revisit a question we posed one year earlier, where we ask builders to look ahead over the next 12 months and characterize risks to their outlook.
Interestingly, builder contacts indicated that access to development finance and lot availability continues to pose significant risks to their outlook. They also reported that land position and labor shortages have become more significant risks compared to one year ago (see the table).
In addition to highlighting the risks that have come into the forefront during the past year, it also seems worthwhile to point out that a few of the risks have fallen off a bit since we last posed this question. For instance, only one-third of respondents considered rising mortgage rates to be significant risk to their outlook in November 2014 compared to two-fifths of respondents in October 2013. And only one-fourth of respondents indicated that consumer confidence was a significant risk to their outlook in November 2014 compared to nearly two-fifths in October 2013.
To explore these results in more detail, or to view other results that were not discussed in this post, please visit our Construction and Real Estate Survey results web page.
Note: The latest poll results, which reflect activity in October 2014, are based on responses from 35 residential brokers and 24 homebuilders and were collected November 3–12. If you would like to participate in this poll, you may sign up here.
By Jessica Dill, senior economic research analyst in the Atlanta Fed's research department
Music City Is Playing Your Song
Nashville has long been synonymous with country music, and the local economy is closely tied to the music industry. It's not unusual to see a country music star dining in a restaurant or showing up at a local music club for a jam session. In short, music looms large over many aspects of life and culture here. But you might ask, what exactly is the music industry's economic impact on Nashville? Good question! Let's explore.
Music touches several sectors of the Nashville economy. Banking, construction, and hospitality all benefit from the music industry. The Nashville Chamber of Commerce put together a thorough study on the music industry's economic impact. The study revealed that Nashville stands toe to toe with—and in many ways surpasses—New York and Los Angeles for having a fully self-reliant music industry, which in layman's terms means you can write, record, produce, promote, finance, and distribute music without ever leaving the city. Of course, music starts with musicians, singers, and songwriters, but today's music business requires specialized talents that go beyond the stage. Creative, technical, and managerial skills are abundant in the Nashville metropolitan statistical area (MSA). The chamber's study found that relative to Nashville's size, the amount of talent in the music industry at all levels of the process is extraordinary.
The local music industry employs a vast array of people across a correspondingly vast array of sectors. In 2012, according to the chamber's study, the Nashville MSA employed almost 3,000 artists and musicians with an average annual pay of more than $85,000. Music publishing employed almost 1,500 people, with an average annual pay of nearly $75,000. The list goes on and on, including musical instrument manufacturing, musical supply stores, record stores, record production, radio networks, and recording studios. It's almost impossible to tell where the employment influence of the music industry begins and ends. Many jobs are directly related to music, but others are indirectly related and not classified in a way that shows up in a study of employment in the music industry. All in all, the chamber's study indicated that the density of activity in Nashville's music industry is some 10 times greater than New York or Los Angeles, and even greater than cities such as Atlanta, Austin, and New Orleans. Core music industry employment per 1,000 people exceeds all other U.S. cities by a large margin.
The chamber of commerce's report also found that some 56,500 people's employment was tied to the music industry, resulting in labor income of over $3.2 billion and contributing almost $5.5 billion to the local economy, with a total output of almost $10 billion, a large portion of the Nashville MSA's $85 billion gross domestic product.
But what about other areas of the economy that benefit from the music industry's contributions? According to a July 2013 article from the Atlantic CityLab, industries such health care, transportation, and food service benefit greatly. The article pointed out that work in Nashville's full-service restaurants has grown 10 percent since 2009, and the entertainment industry can be credited for a good bit of that growth. The article also pointed out the multiplier effect the music industry has on local employment. For every 10 jobs created in the music industry, another 52 positions are created in the broader economy.
Needless to say, the music industry is important to the Nashville region. Whether it's the entertainment talent, the history, or the culture, music thrives here. So put on your cowboy boots, your cowboy hat, and blue jeans. Nothing says "Welcome to Nashville" more. We are not called Music City USA for nothing!
By Troy Balthrop, a Regional Economic Information Network analyst in the Atlanta Fed's Nashville Branch
Signs Point Up for Regional Manufacturing
Have you ever noticed all the signs in the world around you? They are everywhere. Many of them can prompt some deep thought. For instance, I was recently driving to work one morning, and three deer ran out in the road in front of me. Luckily, I didn't hit them, but it made me wonder: Who decides where to put deer crossing signs? How do they know a deer wants to cross the road right there?
Speaking of signs worth your attention, the signs for southeastern manufacturing are pointing up, according to the latest Southeast Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), which was released on November 6. The report suggests that things look pretty strong, and digging into the report, one could conclude that things are even stronger than they initially appear.
The Atlanta Fed's research department uses the Southeast PMI (produced by the Econometric Center at Kennesaw State University) to track manufacturing activity in the Southeast. The survey analyzes current conditions in the manufacturing sector in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The Southeast PMI is based on a survey of representatives from manufacturing companies in those states and analyzes trends in new orders, production, employment, supplier delivery times, and inventory levels. A reading above 50 indicates that manufacturing activity is expanding, and a reading below 50 indicates that activity is contracting.
The PMI increased to 56.5 in October, which was a 1.5 point increase over September (see the chart). Some notable highlights:
- The new orders subindex remained especially strong in October, registering 64.4, which is a 3.4 point increase over September's 61.0. New orders have averaged a solid 60.7 for the year.
- The production subindex increased significantly to 67.3 during October, 8.3 points higher than September's reading of 59.0.
- The employment subindex fell 2.2 points from the previous month. October's reading of 54.8 still indicates that manufacturing payrolls are increasing.
- The supplier deliveries subindex rose 3.8 points during October, indicating that delivery of inputs is slowing as a result of high demand.
- The finished inventories subindex fell 5.7 points compared with September and sits at 41.3. The fall in finished inventories suggests that inventory levels are lower than the previous month and could lead to higher orders in the near future.
- The commodity prices subindex fell to 51.0, a 2.0 point decrease from September.
When asked for their production expectations over the next three to six months, only 21 percent of survey participants expect production to be higher, down from 50 percent in September. According to the survey, 19 percent of survey respondents expect production to be lower than their current production levels. Those responses imply that 60 percent expect production to stay at current levels.
So to recap: The PMI indicates that regional manufacturing has seen strong new orders and production, employments levels are expanding, demand for inputs could be slowing deliveries, inventory levels are falling, commodity prices are essentially flat, and most purchasing managers are expecting to remain at their current levels of production. Although the low production expectations for the next three to six months prevent it from being a perfect set of conditions, they collectively indicate strong manufacturing activity in the near future. Just as with the deer crossing signs, I'll be paying close attention.
By Troy Balthrop, a Regional Economic Information Network analyst in the Atlanta Fed's Nashville Branch
South Florida Maintains Momentum
In a SouthPoint post in August, I discussed improving economic conditions in South Florida. This momentum is continuing into the last quarter of 2014, with business activity generally strong and some new developments in business investment.
From mid-September to the end of October, business contacts for the Miami Branch of the Atlanta Fed continued to indicate improving business sentiment in the region. Economic activity and overall demand reflect steady growth. One exception to this steadily improving performance is the real estate market, which remains a very active sector in South Florida, with prices continuing to increase.
Employment and labor markets
Business contacts continued to report a concern with a skill-set gap between job seekers and available job opportunities. Contacts across several sectors report difficulty finding skilled labor for specialized positions in technology, mathematics, engineering, management, and lending. In a few sectors, the labor market was reported as tightening.
Contacts in the hospitality industry discussed how the tourism sector's expansion has resulted in job growth. The application of technology has reduced the need for some labor resources. However, creating "experiences" for travelers still requires a human touch, thus the need for additional workers as the sector expands and new venues come online. The part-time to full-time employee ratio has remained stable for some time in this sector, with contract workers being used for specific projects. (Speaking of tourism, industry contacts continue to report construction of new hotels, sports venues, and other attractions, in addition to the renovation of restaurants, hotels, and convention centers.)
Costs, prices, and wages
Business contacts reported some increases in costs, primarily in rent, total compensation, and commodities. Increases in construction costs were mainly associated with increasing land and labor costs. Rising commodity prices were affecting the ability to increase prices and improve profit margins. Contacts reported that—with the exception of the real estate and food services sectors—passing through price increases has met with little success, although many contacts have attempted to raise prices or are considering doing so in the near future.
The commercial real estate rental market remains quite active. Real estate professionals are reporting that as a result of a shortage of industrial space, landlords are able to increase rents, spurring an increase in average asking rents.
Contacts continue to report increasing wage pressures for specific skilled labor. Rising health care costs have been described as a significant concern that is driving total compensation costs up. The reports were mixed as to the percentage of increases, although most said increases ranged between 10 percent and 20 percent. Some contacts are absorbing these costs rather than increasing wages, and others have passed on some or all of the cost to the employee.
Availability of credit and investment
Banking sector contacts all reported being well capitalized, though small businesses noted continued credit constraint. Contacts in regional banking expect the combination of traditional and nontraditional structures (for example, supply-chain financing and accounts receivable purchases) to gain momentum through the end of the year and into 2015.
The number of reports of investments and capital expenditures increased. South Florida real estate companies indicated little slowdown in foreign capital moving into the market. The prevailing perspective is that the United States still offers a strong safe haven.
Overall, South Florida business contacts continue to report positive activity, and an optimistic outlook prevails in the near term.
By Marycela Diaz-Unzalu, a senior Regional Economic Information Network analyst at the Atlanta Fed's Miami Branch
- A Timely Talk with Energy Professionals
- A Closer Look at Earnings in the Southeast
- Has Southeast Manufacturing Found Some Optimism?
- WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?!
- Southeast Commercial Construction Continues Gathering Steam
- Employment Momentum Grows in Florida and the Retail Sector
- Conditions Soften for Southeastern Housing
- Music City Is Playing Your Song
- Signs Point Up for Regional Manufacturing
- South Florida Maintains Momentum
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