Something very curious caught our eye in today's Non-manufacturing ISM. It wasn't the "unexpected" drop in the data, which we reported on previously, but what one of the respondents said far in the back of the report. It was the following:
- "The federal government's spending is increasing greatly as agencies execute their final budgets and utilize fiscal year 2013 appropriated funds prior to their expiration on September 30th. This has caused a major increase in procurement activity for goods and services. Budgets are uncertain for fiscal year 2014, so some items requiring funding in future years are not being purchased." (Public Administration)
Which got us thinking: September 2013 saw a big bounce in various economic indicators leading many to speculate that this was yet another indication that the "sustainable recovery" has finally arrived. Of course, it was not just this year but also last year, and in prior years, that there has been a very distinct pick up in the late Summer economic indicators, only to promptly fade away into the fall and winter.This can be seen on the chart below.
This begs the question: is the only reason why the economy tends to pick up momentum dramatically as the summer ends just a function of a surge in government spending permeating the broader economy as agencies scramble to spend all the money they have before the end of the September 30 Fiscal Year End (just so they get allocated the same or greater budget in the coming fiscal year), which subsequently plunges or is outright halted as the case may be right now?
If so, it would explain so much, and certainly why year after year, the US economy seems to pick up in the mid-to-late Q3 period, only to dramatically fade away in the coming months, as government spending goes from a waterfall to a trickle.
It would also put the government's role in generating transitory periodic spikes in economic output under a microscope, especially since it is so clearly staggered to recur every September as one after another government agency spends like a drunken sailor. And if that is the case, how long until the BLS or some other agency (upon reopening of course) is taken to task to normalize not only for hedonic indicators and climate-related seasonal factors, but also for what is now clearly an annual aberration of economic output trends?