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Data Analysis

Book Printers—2010–2016
Book Printers—2010–2016

Published: September 14, 2018

In 2010, there were 536 book printing establishments. In the ensuing six years, the establishment count would drop -21%. So says our Commercial Printing Establishments tracker. Full Analysis

Words of the Profits
Words of the Profits

Published: September 7, 2018

Looking at the most recent industry profits data that came out earlier this week, we continue to tell the “tale of two cities.” Low profitability of large printers is dragging down average industry profitability. For the industry as a whole, cracking—or re-cracking—$4 billion in profits is proving to be an elusive goal. Full Analysis

Mid-Size Establishments—2010–2016
Mid-Size Establishments—2010–2016

Published: August 31, 2018

In 2010, there were 6,725 10–19-employee commercial printing establishments. Among this demographic category, there was the most precipitous drop from 2010 to 2011—the fallout from the Great Recession which started to take its toll after 2009. By 2012, the bleeding had been largely stanched, and the year-to-year declines were more modest. So says our recently launched Commercial Printing Establishments tracker. Full Analysis

Canadian Printing Shipments
Canadian Printing Shipments

Published: August 24, 2018

Looking at the 12-month moving average of Canada’s printing shipments, it may look like Canada’s printing industry has been holding steady, but the inflation-adjusted figures show a slight decline from a recent peak at the end of 2013. Full Analysis

Consolidation Among Large Print Businesses: 2010–2016
Consolidation Among Large Print Businesses: 2010–2016

Published: August 17, 2018

In 2010, there were 2,124 establishments having 50 or more employees. By 2016, they had dropped to 1,851 (down -13%). So says our new Commercial Printing Establishments tracker, based on data from the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns, which presents—in spreadsheet form—U.S. commercial printing establishments from 2010 to 2016, broken down by six different print business classifications and nine employee-size breakdowns. Full Analysis

Printing Shipments Head Into the Dog Days of Summer
Printing Shipments Head Into the Dog Days of Summer

Published: August 10, 2018

The inflation-adjusted value of printing shipments for June 2018 were down from $6.9 billion in May to $6.5 billion in June. On the plus side, it’s not appreciably below the $6.6 billion reported in June 2017. Full Analysis

WhatTheyThink Launches New Industry Establishment Data Series
WhatTheyThink Launches New Industry Establishment Data Series

Published: August 3, 2018

Our new Commercial Printing Establishments tracker, based on data from the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns, presents—in spreadsheet form—U.S. commercial printing establishments from 2010 to 2016, broken down by six different print business classifications and nine employee-size breakdowns. Full Analysis

June Printing Employment Down Y/Y
June Printing Employment Down Y/Y

Published: July 27, 2018

Overall, printing employment ticked up from May to June 2018, but on a year-over-year basis is down -1.8% from June 2017. Among the creative markets, PR is the place to be. Full Analysis

May Printing Shipments Up from April, Closing in on 2017 Levels
May Printing Shipments Up from April, Closing in on 2017 Levels

Published: July 13, 2018

Printing shipments for May 2018 came in at $6.77 billion, up +3.1% from April. However, on an inflation-adjusted basis, May 2018 came in below the $6.92 billion reported in May 2017, and is well below the recent high of $7.46 billion back in May 2016. Full Analysis

Big Printers' Writedowns and Interest Payments Are a Big Drag on Printing Industry Profits
Big Printers' Writedowns and Interest Payments Are a Big Drag on Printing Industry Profits

Published: June 22, 2018

Writedowns in the first quarter of 2018 for commercial printers with $25 million or more in assets were $157 million, or 1.9% of sales. The assets may be written down, but the borrowing that was created to finance them remains. Interest expense was 4.8% of sales. For the quarter, losses were -1.47% of sales. That rate of loss made average profits before taxes for the industry a mediocre 3% of sales—which means that printers with less than $25 million in assets must have done well. Full Analysis

Full-Time Employment, Sets New Record, Up +904,000, But Does It Really Feel that Good?
Full-Time Employment, Sets New Record, Up +904,000, But Does It Really Feel that Good?

Published: June 8, 2018

The May employment report was regarded as good, but when you dig past the top-level numbers, it was better than it looked. However, while the 3.8% unemployment rate looks good on the surface, it really can’t be compared to when it was last attained nearly 20 years ago. So many workers left the workforce that this figure implies a tighter labor than it really is. We will really know we have a strong economy when the active labor force starts increasing. Full Analysis

Consumer Durable Goods Orders Moving at Almost 2X GDP Rate
Consumer Durable Goods Orders Moving at Almost 2X GDP Rate

Published: May 18, 2018

Durable goods orders for consumers (less transportation) are growing at a rate almost two times faster than Real GDP. This data series remains -14% below where it was at the start of the recession in December 2017, and is a critical one to monitor for indications of an improved economy. Full Analysis

Q1-2018 Rises +2.3%, Slower Rate than Q4-2017
Q1-2018 Rises +2.3%, Slower Rate than Q4-2017

Published: May 11, 2018

The Bureau of Economic Analysis’ advance report estimated that Q1-2018 real gross domestic product was up at an annual rate of +2.3%, which was slower than the +2.9% for Q4-2017. Because companies and individuals, especially corporations, shifted expenses into 2017 and delayed revenue recognition to 2018 to take advantage of the rates in the new tax law, many key economic data series—such as this one—will be subject to larger than usual revision. Full Analysis

Federal Reserve Updates Industrial Production Data Series
Federal Reserve Updates Industrial Production Data Series

Published: April 13, 2018

The Federal Reserve revised 2015–2017 industrial production down from its original reports, meaning that industrial production peaked in 2014 and then slowed. The initial data made things seem better than what consumers and employees were actually experiencing. Full Analysis

Q4-2017 GDP Revisions Stronger than Earlier Reports
Q4-2017 GDP Revisions Stronger than Earlier Reports

Published: April 6, 2018

Q4-2017 GDP estimates were raised to +2.9% from the original estimate of +2.5%. (But beware inventories.) At the same time, shenanigans resulting from the latest tax bill are blurring statistics visibility, especially where corporate profits are concerned. Full Analysis

US Commercial Printing Capital Expenditures
US Commercial Printing Capital Expenditures

Published: March 9, 2018

The capital expenditures of commercial printers fell in 2016, but the investment in less expensive used equipment may have been a major factor. Full Analysis

Canada’s Commercial Printing Shipments 1992-2017
Canada’s Commercial Printing Shipments 1992-2017

Published: March 2, 2018

Canada’s printing industry has been holding steady compared to the US, despite being subject to the same competition from digital media Full Analysis

Print Business Outlook Survey: Areas of interest in new print-related applications
Print Business Outlook Survey: Areas of interest in new print-related applications

Published: February 28, 2018

WhatTheyThink surveyed printing business owners and executives: "What are your areas of interest in new print-related applications." Full Analysis

Print Business Outlook Survey: Which of the following investment items have you budgeted for and plan to acquire in the next 12 months?
Print Business Outlook Survey: Which of the following investment items have you budgeted for and plan to acquire in the next 12 months?

Published: February 20, 2018

WhatTheyThink surveyed printing business owners and executives: "Which of the following investment items have you budgeted for and plan to acquire in the next 12 months?" Full Analysis

Consumer Durable Goods Still Struggle to Reach Recession Levels
Consumer Durable Goods Still Struggle to Reach Recession Levels

Published: February 16, 2018

CPI-adjusted consumer durable goods manufacturing remains well below its pre-recession level—one of the reasons that GDP has been so lackluster. Full Analysis

Print Business Outlook Survey: In the next 12 months, which of the following will be your biggest business opportunities?
Print Business Outlook Survey: In the next 12 months, which of the following will be your biggest business opportunities?

Published: February 15, 2018

WhatTheyThink surveyed printing business owners and executives: "In the next 12 months, which of the following will be your biggest business opportunities?" Full Analysis

Q4-2018 GDP +2.6%, But +3.2% Excluding Inventory Effects
Q4-2018 GDP +2.6%, But +3.2% Excluding Inventory Effects

Published: February 9, 2018

The first report of fourth quarter GDP was a disappointing +2.6%. Sources such as the Atlanta Federal Reserve’s GDPNow and the New York Fed’s Nowcast were for a stronger reading. Inventories are a major factor in the volatility of GDP data, and excluding that data, the economy neared those estimates, producing a much better +3.2% rate compared to Q3. Full Analysis

Print Business Outlook Survey: In the next 12 months, which of the following will be your biggest business challenges?
Print Business Outlook Survey: In the next 12 months, which of the following will be your biggest business challenges?

Published: February 5, 2018

WhatTheyThink surveyed printing business owners and executives: "In the next 12 months, which of the following will be your biggest business challenges?" Full Analysis

2017 NAICS 323 US Commercial Printing Industry Shipments
2017 NAICS 323 US Commercial Printing Industry Shipments

Published: February 2, 2018

The US Commerce Department has released data for November 2017, and this is the first look at the full year by making an estimate for December. Based on shipment and employment trends, it appears that 2017 came in at $76.3 in current dollars. That's a -6.4% decrease in current dollars compared to 2016, and a -8.4% decrease on an inflation-adjusted basis. The chart includes selected prior years starting at 1995. December data will be released at the beginning of February, and will be revised in March. In May, the Commerce Department will revise the last three years of data, plus minor revisions to the years prior to that. Full Analysis

Latest Inflation Adjustment Multipliers
Latest Inflation Adjustment Multipliers

Published: January 29, 2018

Inflation distorts our interpretation of history and clouds business decisions. All dollars may look alike, but what a dollar bought in 1950 is a lot different than a dollar in 2017. Unfortunately, commercial printing prices have not kept up with inflation, but the costs of running a printing business usually have. This means that it's harder to keep earnings and payrolls up to this level. If past dollars had greater value, this chart can be used to adjust past financial statements to bring those data to current value. This is especially important in budgeting processes where looking for trends in prior years is one way of assessing performance and goals. Full Analysis

E-commerce is the only reason retail is growing
E-commerce is the only reason retail is growing

Published: October 5, 2017

Inflation and population changes often distort the analysis of economic trends. This chart shows the changing nature of retail sales on a per capita (per person) and inflation-adjusted (using the Consumer Price Index) basis by the percentage change compared to the same period of the prior year. Full Analysis

Dr. Joe's Key Recovery Indicators
Dr. Joe's Key Recovery Indicators

Published: September 11, 2017

The recovery indicators (when we started these we thought they’d be around for about a year or so) had four of its six factors turn negative, with one of those falling back to its recession level of December 2007. Yes, that’s when the recession started. That long ago. Full Analysis

Updated Commercial Printing and New GDP Data
Updated Commercial Printing and New GDP Data

Published: August 17, 2017

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released the Q2-2017 GDP data and revisions to historical data beginning with 2014. Back in mid-May, the Commerce Department updated historical commercial printing shipments (NAICS 323) as part of its manufacturing shipments revisions. This week’s chart shows an updated view of both data series in current dollars (sometimes called “nominal;” both terms mean that data are not adjusted for inflation). The red line is year-to-year growth rate in GDP, and the blue line is year-to-year change in quarterly shipments. Since around 1997 printing shipments have not met GDP growth except for a moment between 2010 and 2015. The most recent printing shipments trend at the right of the chart are remarkable for their direction. A discussion of the GDP revisions and the current status of printing shipments can be found in the column of August 7.

Full Analysis

Did You Know Interest Rates Have Been Falling?
Did You Know Interest Rates Have Been Falling?

Published: July 6, 2017

The Fed has been so reticent about raising rates, and in the process, rates for the 10-year US Treasury actually were negative in February. No, that’s not market rates, that’s the 10-year rate less the year-to-year Consumer Price Index. Since that time, the rate calculated in this manner has moved up 80 basis points. The rate peaked in September 2015 and it’s been down since then. The Fed is having problems making the decision to raise rates, and often announced more rates in a future period but increasing rates at a slower pace. They have a target inflation rate of 2% (which means you lose about 25% of your savings over 10 years on a compounded basis). If you believe that the inflation rate is calculated in a manner that makes it seem lower than it actually is, then the Fed’s desire to see inflation at the 2% rate before they start pushing interest rates higher may be be difficult to reach or sustain. That means long term rates will stay artificially low (on purpose) for a longer period of time than most experts expect. Full Analysis

Inflation-adjusted Shipments per Employee
Inflation-adjusted Shipments per Employee

Published: May 25, 2017

The Commerce Department’s revisions to industry shipments show a much different picture of a key metric for the industry, sales per employee. The chart was created using 12-month moving totals of inflation-adjusted shipments and the 12 month moving average of total industry employment. The latest reading through March 2017 is $182.65 per employee, a meager +1.5% higher than it was at the end of 1992. It fell from a peak of $195.51 which was just before the burst of the housing bubble, the rise of social media platforms, tablets, and smartphones. The fall in this calculation has some interesting characteristics. Historically, large printing businesses focused on magazines, catalogs, and newspaper inserts, had sales per employee that were significantly higher than the industry averages, anywhere from 30% to 50% higher. Full Analysis

Births and Deaths of Commercial Printing Establishments, 2010 to 2014
Births and Deaths of Commercial Printing Establishments, 2010 to 2014

Published: May 11, 2017

The Commerce Department tracks the number of business establishments by industry, and among he more interesting reports is the calculation of new and closed businesses. The data take a while to be released, and these new data about 2014 were recently made available. There’s a word of caution here. If someone was a corporation and decides to become a partnership or a proprietorship, that counts as one business closed and one business opened. And then there’s “poor man’s mergers” where two business owners decide to close their two businesses and open one new one. Same people, same equipment, no real change except to the tax authorities and government statisticians. The most important number is the net change of births less deaths. In the worst of the recession, the net number was 6% of establishments. For 2014, that had fallen to a little more than 2%. Full Analysis

Printing Industry Lags Other Manufacturers in Defined Management Processes
Printing Industry Lags Other Manufacturers in Defined Management Processes

Published: April 27, 2017

In what is not a surprise to many, the job shop operational structure of many printing businesses put the industry near the bottom of all manufacturing industries in terms of its management processes. Full Analysis

The Fed’s Balance Sheet and the S&P 500
The Fed’s Balance Sheet and the S&P 500

Published: April 13, 2017

The financial markets were rattled a little bit by the recent minutes of the Fed meeting where they discussed the unwinding of their interventions and the ballooning of their balance sheet. The data are reflected in the St. Louis Fed Adjusted Monetary Base. The chart shows how the run-up in the S&P 500 stock index relates to the Fed’s quantitative easings Full Analysis

US Commercial Printing Shipments on a Per Capita Basis
US Commercial Printing Shipments on a Per Capita Basis

Published: March 30, 2017

Yes, that sounds boring, but the data have been made interesting by including details about the last forty years or so of industry history and technological change. We added some statistical forecasts from our models that take the data out to 2025. When we started this chart almost ten years ago, those outlying years were near zero. They’re not any more (whew!). The data are inflation adjusted and based on the population data and forecasts of the US Census Bureau. It’s interesting how there are periods of relative stability, a change, followed by another period of stability. Technological change has been a much bigger factor affecting consumption than general economic conditions. Full Analysis

Ad Agency and Publisher Revenues
Ad Agency and Publisher Revenues

Published: March 23, 2017

Advertising agency revenues are having a slow rebound from their pullback in 2015. Publisher revenues are still having problems as ad pages and circulation are contracting. Clearly, agencies are finding other areas to garner revenues, especially in managing digital initiatives. Mobile communications are where their latest opportunities are, especially with website redesigns, creating the look and feel of content marketing for their clients, and assisting clients as they sort through the analytics that marketing automation offers. Full Analysis

Consumer Inflation for 2016 at +2.5%, Giving Fed Reason to Increase Rates
Consumer Inflation for 2016 at +2.5%, Giving Fed Reason to Increase Rates

Published: February 23, 2017

Consumer inflation for 2016 was increasing, with December’s reading +2.5% higher than 2015. December’s rate alone was at a +6.6% annualized rate. The chart shows the monthly comparisons as the blue line and the year-to-year comparisons as the heavier red line. Full Analysis

Employment Stalls; Printing Shipments Fall Sharply in December
Employment Stalls; Printing Shipments Fall Sharply in December

Published: February 6, 2017

The national employment data may have had a headline of +227,000 payroll jobs, but the household survey did not indicate the same. Every year, the report released in February includes revisions to the prior year. The press release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that employment was “little changed.” Full Analysis

4Q-2016 GDP Slows to +1.9%, +0.9% Less Inventory Build-Up
4Q-2016 GDP Slows to +1.9%, +0.9% Less Inventory Build-Up

Published: January 30, 2017

The fourth quarter of 2016 ended quiently, with a growth rate of +1.9% compared to the third quarter. That brought 2016 to an overall growth rate of +1.6%. Full Analysis

Real GDP for Six Presidential Administrations
Real GDP for Six Presidential Administrations

Published: January 26, 2017

A new administration is in Washington, so we created a chart that looks back at general economic conditions of the prior six administrations. Full Analysis

Small Business Index Rockets Up to Mid-2000s Level
Small Business Index Rockets Up to Mid-2000s Level

Published: January 12, 2017

The NFIB's small business index came in at 105.8. It has had two months near-vertical increase, now at levels not seen since December 2004 when it was 106.1. It's sheer optimism that small business concerns about taxes, regulation, and the economy will improve. There are many reports about improved confidence, especially among consumers, but it seems like it's too much too soon. While the new administration might be able to provide some regulatory relief in its early days, most of its desired actions require acts of Congress. Those can sometimes take forever... or longer. Full Analysis

US Commercial Printing Industry Employment Finishes -2.5%; Consolidation Effects Evident
US Commercial Printing Industry Employment Finishes -2.5%; Consolidation Effects Evident

Published: January 11, 2017

The US commercial printing industry finished the year with 439,900 employees, down -11,200 compared to 2015. The number of production employees was down -3,100, a -1.0% decrease. Non-production employees represented the biggest change, down -8,400 (-6.0%). Full Analysis

Recovery Indicators January 2017
Recovery Indicators January 2017

Published: January 9, 2017

With the Dow Jones and S&P 500 at all-time inflation-adjusted highs. The recovery indicators are stronger than they have been in a while, with very bullish increases in new orders for manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors, and a strong reading of the NASDAQ stock index. Full Analysis

3Q-2016 Real GDP Revised Up Again; Did US Just Emerge from an Unrecognized Recession?
3Q-2016 Real GDP Revised Up Again; Did US Just Emerge from an Unrecognized Recession?

Published: December 22, 2016

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released its third report of real Gross Domestic Product, at an annualized +3.5% over the second quarter. This is considered the final report, revising the advance report of +2.9% two months ago, and +3.2% in last month's preliminary report. This is important because each release of GDP data is based on increasing amounts of actual reported data. The advance report relies the most on estimates and models. Full Analysis

Commercial Printing  Inflation-Adjusted Shipments Per Employee
Commercial Printing Inflation-Adjusted Shipments Per Employee

Published: December 16, 2016

The effects of consolidation, a challenging pricing environment, cost controls and productivity measures have sent shipments per employee to unprecendented levels. The prior peak was just before the recession began. The industry is more efficient in many ways, especially with the exit of weak and marginal establishments. But is it more profitable? In the December 15 webinar and in the new Forecast 2017 report, industry profit levels are discussed. Despite reaching new levels of sales per employee, profit levels have become tepid, a sign of tightening market conditions. In the webinar we discussed the possibility that another wave of media change is underway. The last major one was the rise of social media ten years ago, and now the growing impact of mobile media, especially this year. Full Analysis

Q3-2016 Real GDP Revised Up from +2.9% to +3.2%; Little Change in Yearly Comparison
Q3-2016 Real GDP Revised Up from +2.9% to +3.2%; Little Change in Yearly Comparison

Published: December 1, 2016

The Bureau of Economic Analysis issued its second estimate of real gross domestic product, raising it to +3.2%. Real GDP for 2Q-2016 was +1.4%. Each advance release of GDP data is revised monthly as “more complete source data” is used rather than estimates. We prefer comparing GDP data to the same quarter as the prior year, which helps minimize the variation and possible distortions of seasonal adjustments. Compared to last year, Q3-2016 was +1.6%. Because inventory changes can distort GDP estimates, we also look at the data less inventories, and it shows the economy still hovering around a +2.0% growth rate. Lately, the inventory adjustments have been small. Theoretically, they should be zero in the long run, and for these last two quarters that has nearly been the case. In 2015, it averaged +$82 billion per quarter. Some of 2016's sluggish performance has been an inventory adjustment in the overall economy. The Atlanta Fed's GDPNow estimate for the current Q4 is running at +2.4%. Full Analysis

Fed's Industrial Production Index Down for 13 Consecutive Months: A Recession on Inauguration Day?
Fed's Industrial Production Index Down for 13 Consecutive Months: A Recession on Inauguration Day?

Published: November 17, 2016

Will the newly inaugurated President Trump be dealing with a recession like his predecessor did? In December 2008, a recession was declared, and the experts said it started almost a year before then. Several economic indicators, like durable goods orders and factory orders, have been negative compared to the prior year's level for almost two years. The Federal Reserve's Industrial Production Index released on November 16 marked its thirteenth consecutive negative comparison to the prior year. The only sector that is holding up in the GDP reports is the consumer side of that bookkeeping. That can't hold up for long unless the production and investment side of the GDP ledgers start to perk up. There is optimism in the markets about a Trump recovery, but it must be noted that there are many legislative hurdles ahead, and most economic plans take about 18 months to develop notable impact. Full Analysis

US Commercial Printing Shipments in Mild Downturn; Employment Consolidation Continues
US Commercial Printing Shipments in Mild Downturn; Employment Consolidation Continues

Published: November 7, 2016

US commercial printing shipments for September 2016 were down -$8 million compared to the prior year (-0.1%). On an inflation-adjusted basis, shipments were down by -$118 million. Interestingly, inflation-adjusted August shipments were up by +$118 million, making the net change for the two months zero. Full Analysis

US Employments Report: Not What the Headlines Said
US Employments Report: Not What the Headlines Said

Published: November 7, 2016

The business headlines about the October employment report may have said “unemployment rate falls to 4.9%; payrolls grow +161,000,” but the details of the overall employment picture deteriorated. Full Analysis

Recovery Indicators Mixed Again
Recovery Indicators Mixed Again

Published: November 4, 2016

Last month's recovery indicators bounced back big from a dreadful report, but this month's have moderated. The ISM manufacturing and non-manufacturing new orders decreased, but they are still above the 50 breakeven level, showing growth. The non-manufacturing side is still strongly on the growth side of the line. Full Analysis

Q3 Real GDP +2.9%; Soybeans Lead the Charge?
Q3 Real GDP +2.9%; Soybeans Lead the Charge?

Published: November 1, 2016

Prior to the release of Q3's advance estimate of real GDP, the Atlanta Fed's GDPNow forecast was +2.1%. The official figure came in much better, at +2.9%. It is likely to be revised down slightly, but it was a much better showing than recent data. Full Analysis