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During periods of “low visibility,” confusion reigns: for every indication of one trend, there seems to be a countertrend. The key is to glean from the collective wisdom of reliable leading indicators a clear signal that the economy is headed for a turn.

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Falling Growth in Hours Worked


Slowdown Comes Into Clear Focus

The slowdown that ECRI flagged back in the spring has come into clear focus. In November, year-over-year (yoy) growth in aggregate weekly hours for production and nonsupervisory workers fell for the fourth straight month to a 13-month low in the goods sector (top line in chart), while easing for the third straight month to a ten-month low in the services sector (bottom line).


In fact, yoy aggregate service-sector hours growth peaked last year, and has been in a gentle downtrend since early this year. But yoy aggregate goods-sector hours growth – after seeing a double-top in the spring and summer – nosedived only in November.

As a result, the downturn in yoy overall hours growth – which has been sliding since the summer – has dropped to a ten-month low in its latest reading. With the number of total hours worked in November virtually unchanged from August, the slowdown is increasingly hard to ignore.

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