Bob Prince, long time broadcaster for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1948-1975, was known for urging the Pirates to get a base hit (a bloop) and a home run (a blast) late in the game when the Pirates were down by a run. After several months of good news about U.S. manufacturing expanding and gaining lost ground, manufacturing is still down by a run in the bottom of the ninth. The most recent report from the Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Index points to significant softening in manufacturing performance although it remains positive. There are other signs that the general economic recovery may also be stalling – unemployment insurance claims have been over 400,000 for seven straight weeks, ADP’s national employment report for May also reported a drop in job growth overall and a decline in manufacturing employment in May after seven months of positive growth in particular. Moreover, the most recent set of GDP numbers from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis found that GDP increased at an annual rate of only 1.8 percent in the first quarter of 2011, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s National Activity Index declined and the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index also registered a decline pointing to a general softening of the economy. Some of this may reflect the rapid rise in gas prices and other issues, but many forecasts for the future points to moderating economic growth. Many signs point to some weakening regionally as well and that maybe the rebound in manufacturing is stalled or slowing according to several surveys done by the various Federal Reserve Banks (see here, here, here, here). In addition, there are signs that manufacturing growth globally is also stalling as indicated by reports from emerging from Europe and Asia. One month of slowing growth does not suggest a trend, of course. But the signs are troubling and suggestions that we are in for another dip may be premature but weaving these strands together does suggest a potentially troubling turn in the economic recovery. Maybe we should heed Earl Weaver’s advice and take up a new pastime to avoid a big inning — “Every time I fail to smoke a cigarette between innings, the opposition will score” Maybe it is premature to call it a trend, but maybe not.
What do you think?