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  Nonfarm Productivity Increased at a 2.2% Annual Rate in the Third Quarter
Posted Under: Data Watch • Productivity
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Implications: Following last week's upward revision to real GDP growth for Q3, productivity growth was revised up to a more respectable 2.2% annualized growth rate from a previous estimate of 1.6%. We say respectable, because it's essentially the same as the average productivity growth rate of 2.1% since 1996. It's also an improvement from the relatively weak productivity growth of the past several years. The good news is that the trend in measured productivity growth may finally be picking back up. Productivity is up at a 1% annual rate in the past two years versus an average of 0.5% in the prior two years. Also, remember that productivity is an "aggregate" number – it reflects the increased output from new-tech like high-productivity 3D printing, as well as all of the lost output from time spent complying with complicated regulations and tax rules. In other words, don't blame the private sector for slow growth, blame government. In spite of all this, productivity is probably underestimated in the high-tech arena, especially for services. Have you used Google Maps lately? It will find the fastest route to your destination in real-time taking into account current traffic, weather, etc. And it's all free! But anything free, no matter how much it improves everyday life, isn't directly included in output – which means they aren't directly included in productivity either. In turn, this means our standard of living is improving faster than the official reports show. On the manufacturing side, productivity rose at a 5.1% annual rate in Q3, and is up 1.5% from a year ago. Manufacturers, aided by new technologies, are still able to increase output faster than hours. Expect more acceleration in productivity in the next couple of years. In other news this morning, the ADP report, which measures private payrolls, showed a gain of 217,000 in November. Plugging this into our models suggests Friday's official report will show a gain of 180,000 in nonfarm payrolls. (We'll finalize our forecast after tomorrow's report on unemployment claims.) Yesterday, automakers reported sales of cars and light trucks at an 18.2 million annual rate, up 6.2% from a year ago and the first time ever that sales have beat an 18 million rate for three straight months. While some investors may be concerned that weaker credit standards are driving sales, the median credit score for auto buyers who borrow rose in the most recent quarter (as sales picked up), and the median score of 692.5 over the past year stands slightly higher than the average since 1999.
Posted on Wednesday, December 2, 2015 @ 10:01 AM • Post Link Print this post Printer Friendly

These posts were prepared by First Trust Advisors L.P., and reflect the current opinion of the authors. They are based upon sources and data believed to be accurate and reliable. Opinions and forward looking statements expressed are subject to change without notice. This information does not constitute a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security.
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