The Chemical Activity Barometer, a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council, saw no change in June on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis, following three monthly gains.
On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer is up barely 0.3% (3MMA), the council reported. The unadjusted measure of the CAB retreated 0.2% in June and fell 0.3% in May.
“The slowing economy and rising trade tensions have weighed on business confidence and investment, resulting in mixed manufacturing activity,” said Kevin Swift, who serves as chief economist at ACC.
“In summary, the CAB reading continues to signal gains in U.S. commercial and industrial activity through late 2019, but at a moderated pace.”
The CAB has four primary components, each consisting of a variety of indicators: production; equity prices; product prices; and inventories combined with other indicators.
Production-related indicators in June were slightly positive. Trends in construction-related resins, pigments and related performance chemistry were mixed. ACC says this suggests further slowing of gains in housing activity.
Plastic resins used in packaging were positive, while those for consumer and institutional applications were mixed. Performance chemistry and U.S. exports were mixed.
Equity prices rebounded in June, while product and input prices rose. Inventory and other indicators were positive.
ACC also reported that the U.S. Chemical Production Regional Index increased slightly by 0.4% in May, following a 0.2% gain in April and a 0.3% decline registered in March.
During May, chemical output was up across all regions in the United States, except for the Ohio Valley, which posted flat growth.
Road Fatalities Decreased in 2018
Overall highway fatalities were down last year, but truck-involved fatalities jumped 3%, the federal government reported.
According to the preliminary accident figures for 2018 released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, all types of traffic deaths in 2018 are initially projected to have been a total 36,750, or 1% fewer than in 2017.
If the preliminary numbers hold true, total fatalities would be figured at a rate of 1.14 deaths per 100 million miles driven. This would be a drop from the 1.16 rate in 2017 and the lowest rate since 2014.
Traffic deaths in the United States hit a high in 2007 of 41,259 people killed, producing a rate of 1.36 per 100 million miles driven. New England saw the largest year-over-year increase in traffic fatalities with a 4% jump.
The numbers also show that vehicle miles traveled in 2018 increased by about 12.2 billion miles, or about 0.4%.
Although most regions experienced decreases in traffic fatalities, the biggest drops were seen in the upper Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio), which enjoyed a 5% year-over-year decrease.
One particularly troubling development is that the early data shows bicycling fatalities soared a surprising 10%.
Deaths of pedestrians spiked by 4% in 2018. This is on top of a rise in pedestrian deaths increased from 12% of all traffic deaths in 2009 to 16% in 2017. That year pedestrian fatalities declined in absolute numbers by 1.7% and to 8% among bicyclists.
Data also shows that pedestrian deaths dropped by 10% or more in the states of Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.
Is Scabby Due For Execution?
If Peter B. Robb, the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, gets his way, Scabby the Rat may be facing termination with extreme prejudice sometime in the near future.
On May 14, Robb recommended that the NLRB reverse several Obama-era decisions that permitted the use of such balloons, as well as the erection of stationary banners, be found unlawful.
Variations of the giant inflatable rodent called Scabby the Rat and his other inflatable brothers and sisters have been showing up on union picket lines for more than 30 years.
Available as a rental from a company that has specialized for decades in supplying inflatables of various sizes and designs, Scabby along with other inflatable mascots, can even be rented for your child’s birthday party – but only if you have a really strange child.
Earlier this year a U.S. Appeals Court upheld the right of a midwestern town to enforce an ordinance banning displays like the rampant rodent, which means other localities that choose to pass similar ordinances should be able to enforce them as well. (3-15-19, P. 2).
During the Obama years, the pro-union NLRB majority took the position that the inflatable rats did not have an unlawful or coercive effect. The Obama board ruled that the use of Scabby was just like other peaceful, protected activities such as hand- billing and holding signs on the picket line.
In an advice memorandum Robb issued, he suggested that the use of inflatable rats may constitute illegal secondary picketing when used at a neutral employer’s job site. Boycotts of businesses the union is not negotiating with have long been held to be illegal by the Supreme Court.
IT Employment Pressure Is On
The need for high tech talent in business continues to grow, but the supply may not be available to satisfy that demand, reports the employment consulting firm of Robert Half.
In its hiring survey of tech executives, 67% said they plan to expand their teams by adding full-time employees, up four points from the first half of the year. But 89% of those surveyed recently also said it is difficult for their company to find the skilled IT professionals they need.
“Employers around the country and across all industries are challenged when it comes to growing their teams because of a limited pool of available talent,” said John Reed, executive vice president of Robert Half.
He added that during the curent skills shortage, IT leaders are seeing the benefits of enhancing their teams with project support professionals.
“Whether addressing the sudden departure of a team member, facing growing project requests or filling a skills void on your team, contract professionals can help increase productivity and keep burnout at bay.”
Almost all respondents (95%) said they will bring on project professionals to support their teams. Of those, 59% say bringing on consultants is part of their overall hiring strategy, and 56% say they choose to bring project professionals on board when there’s a sudden vacancy on their team.
Among the other findings are an optimistic outlook on growth. Nearly all of the IT leaders (97%) stated that they are confident about their companies’ prospects for growth in the second half of 2019.
Besides recruitment, tech managers report their biggest priorities over the next six months include maintaining security, investing in new technologies, innovation and developing cloud projects.
The top industries planning to expand IT teams by adding new positions through the end of the year are construction, business services, banking and financial services, energy, utilities, oil and gas, finance, retail and healthcare.