Signs of a Market Slowdown

There are a number of indicators signaling a slowdown in both the general economy and technology products and services:

  • The Gartner CMO Spend Survey showed a drop in marketing spend as a percentage of overall spend from 11.2% in 2018 to 10.5% this year.  The peak in marketing spend was in 2016 (12.1%).  The data is based upon a survey of 340 North American and UK marketing leaders.  However, 61% of marketers anticipate a rebound in 2020.  “While we’re not yet witnessing a precipitous drop in budgets, this year’s downtick presents a counterintuitive scenario,” commented Gartner’s VP of the Marketing practice, Ewan McIntyre.  “You could call this confidence in the face of adversity.  Or you could call it hubris.”

    MarTech budgets fell 3% to 26% this year.
  • The Gartner 2Q19 Global Talent Monitor indicated growing concern about the job market with fewer employees looking to change jobs.  53% of US employees are intending to stay put and only 12.5% are actively looking for other positions.  The US actively looking rate dropped in half in Q2 and the percent looking to stay put rose ten points.  “Over the previous several years, the clear story within the U.S. has been a robust economy, tight labor market and plenty of opportunities for growth and improvement from the employee perspective,” said Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice. “With this quarter-over-quarter increase in intent to stay, we are now seeing a shift as employees hunker down, indicating concerns around available job opportunities and potential weakness in the labor market.”

    Gartner also noted a 2.4% decrease in global business confidence amongst employees and an increasing willingness of US employees to go “above and beyond the call of duty at their jobs.”  According to Kropp, “Workers appear to be putting more time and effort into their current positions with the hopes of solidifying their roles in case of a change in the economy.  This situation creates an opportunity for organizations to invest in internal training programs that capture this employee commitment to build a stronger, more productive workforce.”
  • Trump’s Tariff War is proving more difficult to win than he anticipated, resulting in inflationary pressures in the US alongside harm to the industrial and agricultural sectors.  Tariff rates are expected to increase at the end of the year.
  • Brexit remains a big question mark with dates, agreements, and new UK elections changing almost every day.
  • The US and UK governments are both very unpopular with Trump facing Impeachment hearings and Boris Johnson preparing for an election.
  • While the US unemployment rate is at a historical low point (3.6%), the economy only added 128,000 non-farm jobs last month and 130,000 per month this year, well below the 223,000 jobs added each month in 2018.
  • The preliminary US GDP Q3 growth rate came in at 1.9% compared to 2.9% in 2018.
  • US Hiring has slowed to its lowest rate in seven years.  A survey of economists by the National Association of Business Economists found that only one in five of their firms grew their headcount in Q3 down from one in three in Q2.  Capital equipment purchasing is at a five-year low and fewer firms are offering pay raises.  “The U.S. economy appears to be slowing, and respondents expect still slower growth over the next 12 months,” said Constance Hunter, NABE president and chief economist at KPMG.

    The NABE also reported slowing sales with only 39% reporting sales growth in Q3 compared to 61% a year ago.

If the US economy tips into a recession, there is little room for fiscal or monetary policy to slow a recession.  The Federal Funds rate (1.75% following three cuts this year) is historically low for an economy at 3.6% unemployment and the Federal deficit provides little room for expansionary fiscal policy.  Trump lowered personal and corporate tax rates when the economy was strong instead of waiting for a recession.