ACE Report: NE Ohio job-creation engine sputtered at the end of 2016

The end of 2016 was not kind to Northeast Ohio’s job market, according to the latest Ahola Crain’s Employment (ACE) Report.

Seasonally adjusted employment in December for the seven-county area of Cleveland and Akron measured by the report was 1,170,985, a decline of 1,879 jobs from 1,172,864 in November. And November was no great shakes, either; its total job number was just 286 higher than the October figure calculated in the ACE Report.

Jack Kleinhenz, the Cleveland Heights economist who created the ACE Report model, noted in an analysis of the December data that the seasonally adjusted jobs figure for last month “is below its three-month and six-month average and suggests economic activity and job growth has lost some momentum from the faster pace that was evident in prior months.”
But it’s impossible to draw firm conclusions from one subpar month in one statistical category.

Kleinhenz wrote in his analysis, “We are not sure that the regional economy has made a fundamental change, nor has the national economy, since employment is only one gauge that measures economic activity.” He noted, for instance, that a gauge of economic activity created by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia rose in Ohio by 2.2% on a year-over-year basis, and recent construction and retail sales data “also show gains.”

Kleinhenz added that “choppy employment” around the end of a calendar year “is not unusual given shifting seasonal hiring patterns. It is typical for the trajectory of monthly employment to be pared significantly back. We expect a similar pattern to take place and recognize that some dampening of the pace of employment gains is projected.”

Kleinhenz wrote in his analysis that regional initial unemployment claims, a factor in the ACE Report model, had been at “historically low levels” but then “kicked up in the middle of December.” Such claims “are usually variable around the holidays because of winter weather, school closures and shifting seasonal hiring patterns,” according to Kleinhenz.

Meanwhile, he wrote, January employment “looks to be a better month based upon a reduction in initial unemployment claims.” Also, he noted that “most measures” of consumer and business sentiment “have shown notable improvement since the November election, raising expectation that economic activity will accelerate at the national and regional levels.”

The national economy “is expected to gain further traction in 2017,” according to Kleinhenz. “Regional growth during 2016 might have been stronger had it not been for weakness in metals production and the energy industry. In addition, the weak global economy and a strong dollar hurt export related firms output and associated employment.”

Despite these developments, he wrote, “the regional outlook (is) promising as national indexes tracking production and new orders in the most recent ISM (Institute for Supply Management) survey rose to levels posted in late-2014.”

Month Non-Farm Small(1-49) Mid-Sized Goods Service
(50+) Producing Producing
June 2016 (act) 1,167,272 475,237 692,035 211,159 956,113
July (est) 1,175,080 478,077 697,003 217,432 957,648
Aug (est) 1,171,211 476,665 694,546 214,391 956,821
Sept (est) 1,169,702 476,139 693,563 212,852 956,851
Oct (est) 1,172,614 477,287 695,327 213,914 958,700
Nov (est) 1,172,864 477,358 695,506 214,400 958,463
Dec (est) 1,170,985 476,588 694,397 214,137 956,848

Recent Month’s Estimated Change
Nov ’16 to Dec ’16 (1,879) (770.15) (1,108) (264) (1,615)
Diff from Dec 2015 1,757 883 874 (2,085) 3,842

3-month 1,172,154 477,078 695,077 214,150 958,004
6-month 1,172,076 477,019 695,057 214,521 957,555