Data shows US jobs and activity are growing slowly but steadily

Ben Southwood
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DATA APPEARED to support President Obama’s claim that the economy is recovering yesterday, as two employment measures showed marked improvement, and non-manufacturing industries were shown to be expanding.

The non-manufacturing sector reported growth for the 32nd consecutive month, jumping to 53.7 on the headline ISM index yesterday, up from 52.6 in July – a score of 50 indicates no change on average.

This overall score came from a robust expansion in business activity, where the index, though down 1.6, was still a healthy 55.6, combined with expansions in both employment and new orders.

But Chris Williamson at Markit warned that growth may be slowing, because much of the rise was driven by the backward-looking jobs index, and the forward-looking new orders index fell slightly.

“The downturn in the non-manufacturing business activity index suggests that the overall pace of economic growth was the slowest since last October – with the exception of the exceptionally weak pace in June,” Williamson said.

Weekly jobless data, released by the Department of Labor, backed up the positive picture given by ISM’s employment sub-index.

The adjusted level of new claims dropped 12,000 last week, while the actual number of claims dropped further, to another four year low.

And another data release, this time from Automatic Data Processing, said private-sector employment increased over 200,000 between July and August.