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Economy in Brief

2Q U.S. Quarterly Services Survey: Real Estate Strong, Utilities Weak
by Sandy Batten  September 9, 2015

The Quarterly Services Survey is the most timely and comprehensive measure of economic activity in the U.S. service sector. It is conducted by the Census Bureau and covers 5,000 service businesses with paid employees. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (the agency that constructs estimates of GDP) is the primary user of these data to measure the services component of overall economic activity.

The data are not reported as an aggregate of overall service activity. Rather, activity is reported only by sector. So, it is difficult to draw any economy-wide conclusions from these data. Moreover, the data are not adjusted for inflation, and most are not seasonally adjusted. (A few selected series are seasonally adjusted.)

The utility sector exhibited the weakest performance in 2Q 2015 with revenues down 5.3% from a year ago. Obviously, this was primarily a reflection of the sharp decline in energy prices over the past year. All of the other major categories posted increases in the second quarter from a year earlier. Transportation and warehousing revenue was the second weakest; it continued to slow significantly and barely grew in 2Q 2015, up only 0.9%y/y compared with 7.0%y/y as recently as 3Q 2014.

Real estate and rental and leasing posted the strongest gain in revenue in 2Q, up 9.5%y/y, its strongest performance in its relatively short history. Arts, entertainment and recreation revenues continued to accelerate, rising 5.5%y/y versus 1.8%y/y just two quarters ago. In contrast, education services revenues continued to slow rather sharply, though their growth still remains robust. They were up 7.6%y/y in 2Q, but this is down from 11.7%y/y in the fourth quarter of 2014. Health Care and Social Assistance, watched closely given its large share of the overall economy, slowed marginally in 2Q, rising 6.4%y/y versus a 7.1%y/y increase in 1Q. This was led by a slowdown in revenues of hospitals and nursing homes.

The QSS data can be found in Haver's USECON database.

Quarterly Revenue for Service Firms (QSS) Y/Y % Q2'15 Q1'15 Q4'14 2014 2013 2012
Hospitals 7.3 9.0 5.7 4.6 3.6 5.9
Administrative & Support 6.9 6.5 8.2 9.3 4.0 5.0
   Employment 10.4 8.8 8.8 13.0 5.5 7.5
   Other Administrative & Support 7.5 8.0 9.1 8.6 3.3 4.5
   Waste Management -5.7 -4.6 2.0 3.6 2.0 0.6
Professional, Scientific & Technical 4.9 5.6 4.8 4.1 2.0 4.0
   Legal 6.1 2.9 -0.7 1.3 -1.2 1.6
   Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping & Payroll 9.5 8.6 9.7 10.2 5.0 7.7
Information 3.8 3.1 4.4 5.2 3.4 4.2
   Software Publishers 2.9 7.4 6.9 7.9 6.9 2.6
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