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The Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers’ Index  (PMI) for manufacturing in August rose +1.8% to 56.0, with the fastest growth for new orders, prices, and production, but continued contraction for employment. Many respondents saw a substantial increase in demand, but a transportation industry respondent noted continued pressure on the airline industry and a respondent in the machinery sector remarked that some customers were waiting for the fourth quarter before ordering. The Services PMI  was 56.9, pulling back from 58.1 in July, with slower growth for activity and new orders, and continued contraction for employment.
The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book  economic summary found an increase in activity in general, but gains were modest and activity was below pre COVID-19 levels. While employment increased overall, it had started slowing in some districts with some furloughed workers becoming permanently laid off, and with other businesses having difficulty finding workers partially due to uncertainties with day care and the coming school year schedule. Residential construction and automobile purchases were bright spots but commercial real estate, agricultural conditions, and energy activity were subdued. The overall outlook was described as modestly optimistic with a general continuing uncertainty and volatility regarding the pandemic.
There were 1.4 million jobs created in August, including 344,000 government jobs, reducing the unemployment rate  by -1.8% to 8.4%, and lowering the number of unemployed persons by -2.8 million to 13.6 million. The more comprehensive U-6 unemployment rate, which includes marginally attached workers, fell from 16.5% to 14.2%. However, the report noted that some laid off workers were again misclassified in August, and the overall unemployment rate may be +0.7% higher than reported, and despite four consecutive months of job gains, employment still lags February’s pre-pandemic numbers by -7.8 million jobs. The largest job gains were for retail (+249,000), federal census workers (+238,000), food services (+174,000), and temporary workers (+107,000). The percent of workers teleworking due to coronavirus dropped from 26.4% in July to 24.3%, and the number of workers unable to look for work due to the pandemic fell by -1.3 million to 5.2 million.
Upcoming Economic Reports:
Thursday September 10 – Producer Price Index
Friday September 11 – Consumer Price Index