Economic indicators remain mixed. In fact, you can cherry-pick data to support any narrative you want to spin, good or bad. Politicians must love it. For those of us with real jobs, it means continuing uncertainty.
And speaking of jobs, employers created 209,000 in June. That's down from 306,000 in May, and 370,000 in June of 2022.
On the other hand, the unemployment rate fell slightly in June to 3.6%. So even though hiring is slowing, there's still no sign of major trouble in the labor market.
Meanwhile, first quarter annualized economic growth is increasing with each revision by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). First it was 1.1%, then 1.3%. Now BEA says it was 2%. That's the final number — no more revisions— and it indicates an economy that isn't strong or weak, just middling.
Inflation seems to be cooling, with May's Consumer Price Index rising only 0.1%, after a 0.4% rise in April. Unadjusted inflation for the past 12 months is only 4%. Nonetheless, most believe Federal Reserve policymakers will raise interest rates at their next meeting July 25-26.
In the tire and rubber industry, employment is mainly trending sideways. All occupations in rubber product manufacturing dropped to 135,700 in May, down from 135,900 in April, but up from 134,900 in May 2022. In tire manufacturing specifically, employment increased to 48,700 in May from 58,600 in April. One year ago, it was 58,200.
One of the more pessimistic numbers I've seen lately is that Chapter 11 filings by U.S. businesses increased 68% in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period last year (source: Epiq Bankruptcy). That's across all industries, not just tire and rubber, but as a general indicator it's sobering, because bankruptcies are now at their highest level since 2010 (source: S&P Global Market Intelligence).