The Big Four Economic Indicators: Industrial Production Unchanged In June

 

Official recession calls are the responsibility of the NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee, which is understandably vague about the specific indicators on which they base their decisions. This committee statement is about as close as they get to identifying their method.

There is, however, a general belief that there are four big indicators that the committee weighs heavily in their cycle identification process. They are:

  • Nonfarm Employment
  • Industrial Production
  • Real Retail Sales
  • Real Personal Income (excluding Transfer Receipts)

The Latest Indicator Data

Today's report on Industrial Production for June shows no change month-over-month, which was worse than the Investing.com consensus of 0.1%. The year-over-year change is 1.32%, up from last month's YoY increase.

Here is the overview from the Federal Reserve:

Industrial production was unchanged in June, as increases for both manufacturing and mining offset a decline for utilities. For the second quarter as a whole, industrial production declined at an annual rate of 1.2 percent, its second consecutive quarterly decrease. In June, manufacturing output advanced 0.4 percent. An increase of nearly 3 percent for motor vehicles and parts contributed significantly to the gain in factory production; excluding motor vehicles and parts, manufacturing output moved up 0.2 percent. The output of utilities fell 3.6 percent as milder-than-usual temperatures in June reduced the demand for air conditioning. The index for mining rose 0.2 percent. At 109.6 percent of its 2012 average, total industrial production was 1.3 percent higher in June than it was a year earlier. Capacity utilization for the industrial sector decreased 0.2 percentage point in June to 77.9 percent, a rate that is 1.9 percentage points below its long-run (1972–2018) average. [view full report]

The chart below shows the year-over-year percent change in Industrial Production since the series inception in 1919, the current level is lower than at the onset of 11 of the 17 recessions over this time frame of nearly a century.

 

Capacity Utilization

The Fed's monthly Industrial Production estimate is accompanied by another closely watched indicator, Capacity Utilization, which is the percentage of US total production capacity being used (available resources includes manufacturing, mining, and electric and gas utilities). In addition to showing cycles of economic growth and demand, Capacity Utilization also serves as a leading indicator of inflation.

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