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Dr. Joe Webb

Dr. Joe Webb is one of the graphic arts industry's best-known consultants, forecasters, and commentators. He is the director of WhatTheyThink.com's Economics and Research Center.

What do you think? Please send feedback to Dr. Joe by emailing him at drjoe@whattheythink.com.

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Recent Commentary & Analysis from Dr. Joe Webb

Displaying 1-24 of 847 articles

Premium Content Printing's Birth-Death Data Show Improving Industry Health

Published November 19, 2015

Even the usual industry dynamics are dynamic. The latest commercial printing industry birth-death data comparing 2012 to 2011 show a rising birth rate and a declining death rate. The +1608 births and -2262 deaths in 2012 were recent lows, as was the net change of only -654 establishments.


USPS EDDM Volume Decline Continues

Published November 13, 2015

What could be an important product for local retailers to make their baby steps into direct mail, keeps declining as the USPS raises prices on the Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) service.


Dr Joe : Effective Nonprofit Marketing, Kauffman Index of Startup Activity

Published November 13, 2015

Dr Joe on: Five Things That Can Make Nonprofit Marketers More Effective, Apple Customers Are Older Than You Think, Kauffman Index of Startup Activity


Recovery Indicators Bounce Back

Published November 9, 2015

The recovery indicators had a better month than last. Five of the six indicators increased and one fell below the level of the start of the recession. New orders for manufacturing and non-manufacturing were impressive in their increases, in stark contrast to government reports about September's durable goods and factory orders.


Premium Content Despite the Economic Muddle, Printing Shipments are Rising. What's Ahead?

Published November 8, 2015

The economic pundits were out in full force about the unemployment rate falling to 5%. Was it meaningful? Is this the sign of a bullish economic rebound? Then there's the 16 month rise in printing shipments. You'd think there'd be cheers from the audience that Dr. Doom is dead, and long live Dr. Boom! Instead, we hear nighttime crickets. What's behind the rise in shipments, is it real and will it last?


Can We Trust Government Data?

Published November 5, 2015

A recent academic paper published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives (Volume 29, Number 4, Fall 2015), “Household Surveys in Crisis,” illustrates the problems of government surveys that are used to make multibillion dollar and multiyear decisions of government and business.


Third Quarter US Commercial Printing Shipments Have Highest Growth Rate Since 1996

Published November 4, 2015

The US Commerce Department reported that commercial printing industry shipments are up for 16 consecutive months in current dollars compared to the same month of 2014.


Dr Joe: Fed Has Hurt Business Investment, Open Textbook Network, Economics for Real People

Published October 30, 2015

Dr Joe on Fed Has Hurt Business Investment, an "Open Textbook" initiative launching at the University of Minnesota, and a free economics textbook from Mises Institute called “Economics for Real People” by Gene Callahan.


Third Quarter GDP Not Good, but Better Under the Surface

Published October 29, 2015

The advance estimate of third quarter 2015 real GDP is +1.5%. We much prefer the year-to-year comparison, and also without the fluctuations of inventories. Those figures, also indicated in the chart, are +2.03% and +2.18% respectively. Net inventories have been running very high, but in the third quarter were $56.8 billion. This figure was cut in half from Q2, and is close to the 2010 to 2014 average. Theoretically, net inventories should be zero when supply and demand are in perfect balance, but that is almost a chance occurrence. Inventory imbalances are usually cured by recessions. This is a better report, and better than many preview methods such as the Atlanta Fed's GDPNow had forecast the day before, at +1.1%. The advance estimate is just that: it is packed with estimates of estimates and becomes more certain as the figure goes through two more revisions. Using the year-to-year calculation, the economy peaked in 2010 and has been slow since then, coming close to that level only once. The economy appears to be slowing further now, with no sign of performing at the post-WW2 level of about +3.4%. Since the recovery beginning with Q3-2009, the economy has averaged +2.02% in real terms and +1.75% less inventories. Durable goods orders, released on October 28, have declined on a year-to-year basis for eight consecutive months. On a positive note, the GDP report shows that real personal consumption expenditures are up +3.2% compared to last year.


Attracting the New Industry Workforce: Do We Know How to Do It?

Published October 26, 2015

There's a new poster that hopes to attract students to the printing workplace. Dr. Joe wonders if it can. He's got some ideas. Is getting involved in events a real business opportunity? There are so many touchpoints in the event process that there are numerous opportunities to help your clients and build your business


Recession Coming? Third Quarter GDP Looks Weaker than Experts Forecasted

Published October 22, 2015

The latest estimate (October 20) by the Atlanta Fed's GDPNow model indicates that third quarter GDP will be +0.9%. That is, until the next data for their model comes in.

Data have not been encouraging lately for retail sales (Walmart's outlook spooked the markets last week) or for manufacturing. Our forecast is still for the +2.25% long range growth rate with bumpiness in the process. Low GDP growth rates always mean that recession possibilities are higher than usual. A long run return to sustained real GDP growth of +3.4% post-WW2 historical average seems very distant as any short bursts higher in the last 15 years have not been sustainable. Your larger clients are often dealing with the ripple effects of international marketplaces through their companies, but your smaller clients are usually more local in scope. Budget cuts may be looming in the big companies, so concentrating on the tactical promotion and operational needs of smaller clients might be the best options now. Help them reduce their total costs, reduce administrative burdens by outsourcing to you, and help then find ways to stimulate revenue streams (like store traffic promotions, better signage, events, media management, mobile media initiatives).


Premium Content Economic Headlines Miss Factors that Explain Economy

Published October 19, 2015

There's no COLA for Social Security recipients this year, and that has nothing to do with the popular drink. The campaign trail leads to all kinds of abuse of economic data, so Dr. Joe adds a different perspective to things. Income isn't always income, because it's spending that really matters. Dr. Joe explains why. The winner of the Nobel Prize in economics explains the contentious political environment.


Premium Content Recovery Indicators Mixed; Weak Employment Data Raise Downside Concerns

Published October 15, 2015

The Economic and Research Center Recovery Indicators had a mixed month but other economic data should raise some concerns.


Pew Internet Survey Shows Social Media Use Up, Way Up, in Last Ten Years

Published October 15, 2015

The Pew Internet Survey has released their latest survey (free download) of social media use and the long term trends are striking. The organization started tracking use in 2005 when social media use was by just 7% of the US population. Now, 65% of adults use social networking sites. Our chart shows the increases by age group.

Ninety percent of those between 18 and 29 use social media, which is not a surprise. Those social media users who are 65+ has more than tripled from 11% in 2010 to 35% in 2015. The report includes data about social media use by various demographics including income, race, gender, community, and education.


Commercial Printing Shipments in Uptrend: 15 Consecutive Months of Growth, Best Growth Rate Since 1996

Published October 14, 2015

US commercial printing industry shipments are up for 15 consecutive months compared to the same month of the prior year.


Changes in Commercial Printing Employment by State

Published October 8, 2015

The chart shows the changes in the average number of employees per establishment in the US and large printing states. The average size of printing businesses in an area offers clues to the kinds of printing produced there and the history of the industry in that area.


Premium Content Profit Leaders Take It All, Again

Published October 5, 2015

The PIA Financial Ratios have been published for decades, and may be the most recognized of the association's publications. There are, of course, problems with all kinds of research gathering efforts, but the positives of the Ratios reports outweigh the negatives from a methodological standpoint.


Tax Foundation Report on the Postal Service and Other Resources

Published October 2, 2015


Debt as a Percentage of GDP

Published October 2, 2015

Many people confuse debt and deficit when they see it as part of the Federal government's annual budget. Deficit is the annual shortfall between a government's spending and its revenues. Debt is the accumulation of all of the deficits and surpluses of the prior years in that government's history.


Updated Printing Industry Capacity Utilization Data – Not What Everyone Thinks It Is

Published October 1, 2015

Even in the industry's most profitable and growing years, the mantra “there's too much capacity in the industry” was always heard. It's been a misplaced and inaccurate portrayal of the business, yet it persists.


Premium Content The State of the Economy and Print

Published September 28, 2015

Dr. Joe wonders why there isn't a little spring to the industry's step with 14 months of better sales levels. It could just be that printers a feeling a sense of relief as they wonder what's next. And then there's the economy. Second quarter GDP look great, but was really less filling. He scratches the economic surface and finds some skepticism inside. If he didn't, he wouldn't be Dr. Joe.


Canada's Commercial Printing Shipments

Published September 17, 2015

Canada's commercial printing industry had a small rebound more than three years ago, before that of the US, and has been on a somewhat steady course since. In US dollars, however, Canada's gains market have been erased recently with the stronger dollar.


Premium Content Advertising Agency Revenues Up +40% Since Bottom of Recession

Published September 14, 2015

Dr. Joe summarizes what he would say at Graph Expo 15 breakfast. Content creation is proving to be a big money maker for the ad agency business. Publishers are still having monetization problems which makes that whole “content is king” still questionable. Maybe it's because the real king is the marketplace of millions of content consumers.


Profits Per Employee Increase

Published September 10, 2015

The nearly $15,000 profit per employee of 2000 may not be in the cards for the US commercial printing business any time soon, but it looks like this measure is headed to its second best performance since the end of the recession. Using the latest data for the second quarter of 2015, and adding the previous three quarters to create a full year, profits per employee seem to be headed to $7,700, a thousand dollars more than the level of 2014.


Improvement in Industry Shipments, Profits Improvement Elusive

Published September 9, 2015

The 4-quarter moving total of inflation-adjusted US commercial printing shipments have been increasing, but unfortunately profits have not. Q2-2015 four-quarter shipments are up +2.3%, but profits are unfortunately down for the last four quarters -10.8%.


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