The US service sector declined further than expected in November as the trade war continues to impact multiple industries. A shortage of skilled laborers is also a factor in the decline. The ISM non-manufacturing index dropped to 53.9 in November from 54.7 the month before, below expectations of 54.5.
- The Institute for Supply Management released a report on Wednesday indicating a sub-expectation result for the non-manufacturing index.
- The services sector, which accounts for over two-thirds of the US economy, slowed from 54.7 to 53.9 vs. 54.5 expected.
- Manufacturing activity also contracted according to a Monday report which showed new orders slumping to the lowest point since 2012.
Decline in the growth of services was expected in November, but the latest report shows that the contracted growth is worse than forecast. While a reading above 50 is still in growth territory, the index slipped further toward contraction amid trade tensions and worker shortages. Business activity fell from 57 to 51.6, while new orders rose from 55.6 to 57. Employment rose 1.8 points to 55.5, and prices rose 1.9 points to 58.5, marking the 30th consecutive month of higher prices.
12 non-manufacturing industries grew in November, but the sector reported a pullback overall for the month, led by real estate, rental and leasing, and healthcare and social assistance. Survey respondents expressed a hope that the trade war would be resolved soon to aid business growth. Commodities in short supply include construction contractors and subcontractors, IV solutions, and pharmaceuticals.
First Cut: ISM Non-Manufacturing Index expands for 118th straight month in November. So far the service sector is avoiding the recession that has kept manufacturing down in the past four months. https://t.co/n754VkFINk pic.twitter.com/O3S3TauB2n
— Whetstone Analysis LLC (@AnalysisLlc) December 4, 2019
Representatives from the management of companies and support services said “Tariffs are impacting prices for a broad array of products used in the delivery of services and completion of projects for our clients. Upward pressure is impacting suppliers and their pricing to customers. We are seeing no relief from our customers, so we’re being negatively impacted by tariff-driven price increases. Numerous suppliers report looking for alternative manufacturing/supply locations outside of China, but with limited or no success so far.”
On the other hand, a respondent in the professional, scientific, technical services industry was more upbeat.
“We’re optimistic [because the] economy appears to be on autopilot, despite all the political distractions. Stock market seems invincible, [and the] trade war with China appears to be in a stalemate. Job growth appears to be reaching an equilibrium point. Final economic demand appears strong, with positive spend forecast for the holidays.”
Gold prices remain down from earlier in today’s session, despite downbeat news in services and job growth. Spot gold last traded at $1,473.51/oz, down -0.32% with a high of $1,483.85/oz and a low of $1,471.97/oz. “The latest batch of ISM surveys are clearly a disappointment, but on their own, they won’t be enough to trigger a ‘material reassessment’ of the Fed’s outlook for the economy. The upshot is that we still think further policy loosening is unlikely,” wrote Capital Economics senior U.S. economist Andrew Hunter.