46 posts categorized "Labor"

Surveys: District manufacturing, state economies seeing fluctuation

Amid the news of falling oil prices and a slowing global economy in contrast to a comparatively strong U.S. economy, two monthly surveys by Creighton University offer a somewhat muddled picture of economic growth in three Ninth District states.

The Rural Mainstreet Index asks community bank presidents and CEOs in rural areas of a 10-state region (including Minnesota and the Dakotas) about current economic conditions and six-month outlook in roughly 200 small communities.

Since mid-2013, the overall index has stayed mostly in expansion territory (an index score of 50 or more). But the index has dipped into contraction on a couple of occasions—particularly for South Dakota—and the general slope of sentiment is slightly downward (see Chart 1).

The good news: Respondents have been upbeat on new hires, with particularly strong scores in Minnesota and North Dakota. The less good news: Sentiment toward farmland prices has tumbled, especially in Minnesota and South Dakota, most likely stemming from low crop prices over this period. Aside from a single-month blip, North Dakota’s farmland index has stay strongly in expansion territory, most likely the result of the state’s very strong economy, with farmland prices possibly being buoyed by demand from nonfarmers.

Mid-America Ch1 -- 10-31-14

A second survey by Creighton, the Mid-America Business Conditions Index, compiles monthly data from manufacturing, purchasing and supply executives in the same 10-state region (and also including Minnesota and the Dakotas). Overall, respondents in these Ninth District states have reported solid expansion, with the overall index slightly upward over the past year (see Chart 2). After a big uptick in employment sentiment, index scores dropped over the summer, but respondents in Minnesota and North Dakota continued to see healthy expansion in the latest surveys. In both manufacturing indexes (overall and employment), South Dakota has seen its scores dip of late, and they appear to be trending downward.

Mid-America Ch2 -- 10-31-14

A summer of steady growth in the Ninth District

The Ninth District economy continued to show signs of steady growth through the summer months, characterized by job growth, decreases in unemployment rates and gains in home building.

As of August, nonfarm employment in district states was up 1.8 percent relative to a year ago, posting a net increase of about 122,000 jobs. North Dakota reported the strongest employment growth among district states, accounting for about one in every six jobs added in the Ninth District over the past 12 months despite the state’s workforce comprising only 7 percent of the district total. Employment growth in other district states was largely in line with the national trend (up 1.8 percent), except in South Dakota, where nonfarm employment growth was 0.7 percent.

The district unemployment rate dropped to 4.7 percent over the same period, down 0.8 percentage points from a year ago. The spread in unemployment rates among district states has narrowed over the past 12 months. Regions with relatively high unemployment rates, such as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Wisconsin and Montana, posted larger year-over-year declines than Minnesota and the Dakotas, where unemployment rates started out much lower last year.

Manufacturing wage growth in the district slowed to 1.4 percent during the three-month period ending in August, compared with a growth rate of 2.5 percent during the same period a year earlier. With the exception of North Dakota and Wisconsin, growth in manufacturing wages in district states was below the national average of 1.6 percent. Montana’s manufacturing workers reported the lowest year-over-year growth rate in hourly earnings among district states, which barely reversed the flat or declining trend in manufacturing wages in the state for much of 2013 and early 2014.

During second quarter 2014, personal income growth (adjusted for inflation) across district states was positive, posting a 2.2 percent overall increase relative to a year ago for the district. Except for North Dakota, all district states posted lower personal income growth rates relative to the national average of 2.4 percent, while South Dakota’s state ranking in growth was near the bottom.

New housing authorizations for the three-month period ending in August were up 8.2 percent in district states; however, rates varied widely among district states. Montana and South Dakota posted year-over-year declines of over 20 percent in new housing authorizations, while North Dakota showed a 42 percent increase over the same period. Housing authorizations in Minnesota and Wisconsin were up 5 percent and 10 percent, respectively, closer to the national average of 7.7 percent.

Home prices continued to show increases in several district cities. During the second quarter of 2014, home prices were 7.4 percent higher than a year ago in Bismarck, N.D., 6.7 percent higher in Minneapolis-St. Paul, 3.2 percent higher in Fargo, N.D., and 2.6 percent higher in Sioux Falls, S.D. Nationally, home prices increased by 4.4 percent during the same period.

For current and historical data on the economic indicators referenced here, see the “Monthly Summary” spreadsheet, along with other Ninth District data that are updated regularly.

Business survey: Ninth District should continue to grow

Results from a Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis ad hoc survey of 603 Ninth District firms (see methodology) reveals that economic activity at firms across industry sectors increased over the past four quarters and should continue over the next four quarters (see table).

Looking back: Firms across industries reported increased sales revenue, profits, productivity and employment. The availability of labor decreased, especially in the construction sector, where the majority of respondents reported a lack of available labor. Respondents from most sectors reported increases in selling prices and input costs. Wage and benefit increases were moderate. They also noted an uptick in availability of financing.

Looking forward: Respondents are more optimistic for the next four quarters, as a higher proportion of respondents reported expectations for increased sales revenue, profits, productivity and employment. The availability of labor is expected to continue to decrease. Respondents expect to raise prices and pay more for inputs. However, wage and benefit increases are expected to be moderate.

State economic outlook: Respondents expect their state economies to grow as well. Employment, consumer spending and profits are all expected to increase. However, the vast majority of respondents across industries expect inflation to increase.

August ad hoc table -- 8-21-14

Ad hoc survey methodology: On Monday, August 18, an email was sent to 5,000 contacts (not a random sample) from various sectors around the Ninth District. By 12 noon Wednesday, August 20, 603 responses were received, representing a 12 percent response rate. The largest number of responses came from finance (24 percent), professional services (20 percent), manufacturing (15 percent), real estate (13 percent), construction (8 percent) and nonprofits (7 percent).

Made in (but not owned by) the USA

Investment is typically seen as a sign of economic strength, as people and financial entities put their money where they believe it can be most productive and profitable. Foreign direct investment (FDI) tracks the amount of money international firms invest in the United States, and a recent report on the matter by the Brookings Institution shows that it’s growing in the Ninth District, but not as fast as it is elsewhere in the country.

In 2013, for example, companies invested $1.46 trillion in locations outside their home country, and the United States is the single largest destination of that capital, receiving $193 billion, according to the report. This investment manifests itself in many forms: spreading technology, facilitating the exchange of knowledge and inducing new trade.

It also employs millions of people, which the Brookings report investigated more closely. Among Ninth District states, the trends are somewhat diverging. In five Ninth District states (cumulative), total employment at foreign-owned establishments (FOEs) grew by about 50 percent from 1991 to 2011, and the share of total private employment at FOEs increased as well (see Chart 1). The growth in this share of employment tended to be modest—about one-half of a percentage point—with the exception of North Dakota, whose share of FOE employment tripled over this period, most likely as a result of foreign firms investing resources in (and hiring workers for) the Bakken oil patch.

However, across the board, district states have a lower share of FOE employment than the national average and (with the exception of North Dakota) saw less growth in the share of FOE employment. As a result, most distrct states fell in ranking among their peers in FOE’s share of total private employment (see table embedded in Chart 1).

One caveat to FDI trends: Much of this investment is the result of acquisitions or mergers of U.S. companies by international firms. So a considerable amount of the resulting “growth” in FOE employment is a methodological quirk—namely, a shift in the nationality of the parent company. This was particularly the case in North Dakota. Among district states, only Wisconsin was close to the national average in the share of FOE employment growth coming from new openings (see Chart 2).

FDI Ch1-2

Personal income buys more in district states

Income earned in one part of the country goes further than in another based on differences in the cost of living. A job in New York City, or in the oilfield city of Williston, N.D., will have to pay more to purchase a similar value of housing, goods and services than a job in Missoula, Mont.

Last week the Bureau of Economic Analysis released data that adjust personal income across states and metropolitan areas to account for cost of living differences. Data on regional price parities (see chart) show state price levels relative to the U.S. average. South Dakota’s value of 88.2 means that the state’s price level is 11.8 percent lower than the U.S. average. Minnesota has the highest value among district states, but is still 2.5 percent lower than the national average. The data series also adjusts for U.S. inflation from 2008 to 2012.

Price parity -- 5--14

Since district states have lower price levels than the nation, once per capita income is adjusted for regional price differences, district states move up across the board in per capita income rankings (see table below). In 2012, North Dakota moved from the fifth to the second highest per capita income level after adjusting for price differences, behind the District of Columbia. Meanwhile, South Dakota jumped from 18th to sixth after a price level adjustment.

Price parity table

Then and now: Labor markets in Ninth District counties

Unemployment rates in the majority of District counties were higher in 2013 compared with 2007, the year before the Great Recession (see map). Unemployment rates in several counties in the eastern and western parts of the district were more than one percentage point higher in 2013 compared with 2007. Meanwhile, most counties in western North Dakota benefiting from the energy boom posted decreases in unemployment rates.

County unemployment map -- 3-24-14

Overall performance can also be seen in Charts 1-6, which compare 2013 unemployment rates with rates in 2007. Dots above the 45-degree line indicate the unemployment rate in 2013 was higher than prior to the recession in 2007. Dots below the 45-degree line indicate that the unemployment rate in 2013 was lower than the rate in 2007. In each figure the respective state’s counties are highlighted in red.

North Dakota has the largest share of counties with lower unemployment rates in 2013 than in 2007. Meanwhile, unemployment rates in Upper Peninsula of Michigan counties were all higher in 2013, and have been generally higher during this period than most other district counties.

County unemployment charts 1-6 -- 3-24-14 -- 3-24-14

March madness: ACA enrollments racing to sign-up goal

The March 31st deadline to sign-up for private health insurance plans as part of the Affordable Care Act is fast approaching, and enrollments in some states are sprinting toward their projected goals while others are lagging, according to data released last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

As of March 1, enrollments in Michigan and Wisconsin are at 90 percent of enrollments projected by HHS before the new law’s launch (see chart). In contrast, fewer than 7,000 people have enrolled in South Dakota, or just 36 percent of its 19,000 projection. Minnesota is the only district state that constructed its own health plan exchange (all others are using the federal healthcare.gov exchange). Enrollment in private plans to date through the MNsure exchange was just 48 percent of the goal of 67,000.

States and the federal government are also keeping a close eye on the number and proportion of young people signing up. For health insurance markets to work efficiently, the number of younger (and healthier, actuarially speaking) enrollees has to balance out the number of older, less healthy enrollees. It was originally estimated that 18 to 34 year olds would make up 35 to 40 percent of all enrollees. So far, it’s just 25 percent, and has remained fairly consistent in monthly reports. Among district states, only about one in five Wisconsin enrollees are in this young age bracket, while South Dakota has one of the highest rates, at 29 percent.

ACA March update -- 3-17-14

Labor force participation: The young and the not restless

A recent report by the Minnesota State Demography Center projects fairly stark and opposing trends in future labor force participation rates of young and old workers. While it might spark a great debate at family reunions over the work ethic of young folks, the underlying source of these trends is likely more benign.

For workers ages 16 to 21 years old, labor force participation rates have been trundling down for some time and are projected to continue dropping in the coming decades (see left chart). For workers ages 22 and older, participation rates remain largely high and flat until you get to age 60, where comparatively lower rates are expected to climb considerably for workers through age 74 (see right chart).

But before you go trashing young workers for their lack of work ethic, the matter is mostly baked into the demographic cake; demographers believe this is not a matter of older workers out-competing younger ones for a limited stock of jobs. It’s also not a function of financial readiness of older workers for retirement. Instead, it has to do with the value of education and the rising longevity of workers.

Susan Brower, Minnesota state demographer, said the projections made by her office use models created by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which predicts a falling participation rate for young workers because of increasing demands for education. The state office also expects some convergence over time between Minnesota’s high participation rates for young workers and the nation’s lower rate.

Older workers, for their part, are staying on the job longer because of increased life span and improved health during later years, Brower said. While the Great Recession has increased attention toward the financial readiness of older workers for retirement, this matter doesn’t play a major role in long-term projections, at least in an immediate sense, according to Brower. Various economic and demographic factors that affect participation are built into BLS models, and the state office then applies them “in a pretty straightforward manner” to state population estimates, producing what Brower called “a pretty slow-moving curve.”

Labor force participation -- 1-29-14

Businesses expect hiring to continue in 2014

There are renewed signs that the Ninth District economy continues to grow based on a recent poll of more than 100 business contacts from around the district (see methodology).

Businesses are expecting to expand; 41 percent plan to increase employment at their firms, and 58 percent of these firms cited expected high sales growth as the most important factor. Only 9 percent plan to decrease employment. In the same survey a year ago, 40 percent planned to increase employment and 7 percent planned to cut jobs (see chart).

Other important factors cited for new hiring were overworked staff, the need for additional skills, and improved financial condition of firms. The vast majority of respondents plan to use current employee referrals, word of mouth and advertising to get new employees. Twenty-two percent plan to use a recruiting firm, and only 8 percent plan to raise starting pay.

For those respondents not planning to hire additional people this year, most reported that finding skilled candidates is hampering hiring, or they wanted to keep operating costs low or expected sales growth to be low.

Ad hod survey chart -- 1-14-14

Methodology: On Jan. 13, the Minneapolis Fed invited, via email, about 500 Beige Book contacts from around the Ninth District to answer the special question in a web-based survey. By Jan. 14, 104 contacts had filled out the survey. The respondents come from a variety of industries (see table).

Ad hod survey table -- 1-14-14

Help wanted: Limited hours and benefits

It’s widely perceived that the post-2009 employment recovery has been dominated by temporary and part-time jobs that typically have fewer health and retirement benefits. The data show there is some truth to this perception, but only by a matter of degree.

During the recession, for example, part-time jobs rose in the U.S., but have been mostly flat in Minnesota. However, the number that were part-time for economic reasons (in other words, they wanted full-time work but accepted part-time) has risen considerably both nationwide and in Minnesota, while part-time jobs held for noneconomic reasons fell (see Chart 1). Though the trend has leveled off, a quick return to pre-recession levels doesn’t appear likely.

Part-time jobs CH1-2

Still, despite the increase, the share of part-time workers has risen only marginally in the Ninth District and the nation (see Chart 2). The part-time share of employment in the Ninth District historically has been higher than the national average, in part, because district states have generally higher workforce participation rates, especially among young workers age 16 to 19 (almost 50 percent in Minnesota, versus the U.S. rate of 35 percent), as well as higher rates of workers with more than one job. Both factors are correlated with a higher incidence of part-time employment.

Temporary jobs also have grown considerably since the end of the recession. But they still make up about 2 percent (and often much less) of total nonfarm employment in Ninth District states (see earlier blog post for more on temp jobs).

A greater share of jobs today do not have health or retirement benefits. In Minnesota, for example, the number of available jobs offering health benefits has slowly eroded over the last decade, bottoming out below 50 percent before rising this year in quarterly job vacancy surveys by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (see Chart 3). Federal data also show that the percentage of jobs with pension plans in district states has fallen slightly from 58 percent in 2006 to 56 percent in 2012, but 2012 actually saw a notable gain of almost 1.5 percentage points.

Part-time jobs Ch3

DEED’s job vacancy surveys also show that the share of part-time and temporary or seasonal vacancies has been volatile since the recession, but the trend line for both has gradually ticked higher (see Chart 4). That’s not likely to change quickly. Online job ads tracked by the Conference Board through October 2013 show that ads for part-time jobs continue to rise in Ninth District states (see Chart 5).

Part-time jobs Ch4-5

Dulguun Batbold, research assistant, contributed data for this post.

 

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