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

by SCOTT SUTTELL
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

Trend
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

ACE Report: Service sector sparks October jobs gain

The region reversed two months of job declines in October, adding 2,498 jobs, according to the Ahola Crain’s Employment (ACE) Report.

Seasonally adjusted, the region saw employment rise to 1,171,849 from 1,169,351 a month earlier, a 0.2% increase.

While the service-producing sector shows a year-over-year gain of 5,407 jobs, the goods-producing sector declined by 2,181 jobs. Smoothing out the month-to-month figures, on a year-over-year basis, the seven-county workforce increased 3,226 jobs, a gain of 0.3%, since October 2015.

The regional decline in the goods-producing sector echoes the national pattern. The United States lost 9,000 manufacturing jobs in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Service employment has been growing, but manufacturing payrolls are either sluggish or declining,” reported Jack Kleinhenz, the Cleveland Heights economist who created the ACE model. “The factory sector continues to face stiff headwinds, including weak global demand due to sluggish growth abroad, a strong dollar and low commodity prices.

Longer term, employment in the goods-producing sector peaked in July 1979 at 25,163,000. Since then, sector employment has declined by 5,548,000 — or 22% — to its current level of 19,615,000. Those jobs have been lost largely to automation and shop-floor tracking systems that increase efficiency and, to a lesser degree, to globalization.

A bright spot at the national level, Kleinhenz said, is the 0.4% gain in average hourly earnings, up 2.8% over the past year.

Economists at Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group called that growth in average hourly earnings the fastest increase in seven years.

“As the job market gets tighter, firms are responding to tougher competition for workers by raising pay,” the financial services firm said in its Nov. 4 economic report. “This is very good news for incomes and consumer spending.”

The Federal Reserve Board’s most recent Beige Book, which gathers anecdotal information on each region of the country, said of the Cleveland region, “Wage pressures were most evident in the construction and retail sectors across skill levels. Reports from staffing firms about job openings and placements were mixed, though all contacts noted an increase in the number of temporary positions.”

Seaonally adjusted data

Custom-Chart-1
Month Non-Farm Small (1-49) Mid-Sized (50+) Goods-producing Service Producing
Mar-16(actual) 1,175,919   478,541   697,378 215,829 960,090
April (est) 1,169,858   476,032   693,826 215,323 954,536
May (est) 1,174,111   477,748   696,363 216,312 957,799
Jun (est) 1,172,025   476,883   695,141 216,156 955,869
Jul (est) 1,175,213   478,117   697,096 217,662 957,551
Aug (est) 1,171,067   476,593   694,474 214,553 956,515
Sept (est) 1,169,351   475,985   693,367 212,954 956,398
Oct (est) 1,171,849   476,981   694,868 213,697 958,152