Dun & Bradstreet U.S. Economic Health Tracker

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A Monthly Report on Business-Related Economic Trends

November 2021 Report

Dun & Bradstreet's U.S. Economic Health Tracker is a monthly, multi-dimensional review of the health of the economy.

U.S. Small Business Health Index

The Small Business Health Index (SBHI) measures business health at the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and Industry (SIC) level as it relates to payment patterns, failure rates, and credit use. The SBHI follows a sampling of all active small businesses with fewer than 100 employees and combines pro- and counter-cyclical elements to provide a simple, representative number. Using 2004 as the base year (index value 100), improvement is designated by an index value above 100. The index is a combination of pro-cyclical and counter-cyclical elements - reflected in one number and is calculated quarterly. The SBHI is based on 4 factors:

  • Average credit card utilization
  • Percent of credit cards with outstanding balance cycle 3+ (61+ days past due)
  • Ratio derived from the number of failures in the last 12 months over prior 12 months
  • Percent of delinquent dollars 91+ days past due out of all outstanding balances

The U.S. Small Business Health Index (SBHI) took a step back in September, declining 0.5 pp. after remaining mostly unchanged since June. The index has recently fallen since recording a post pandemic high of 90.9 in March of this year. The moderate deterioration in the index since March has led the broader slowdown of other US macroeconomic variables such as GDP. Recent weakness in the index could be a warning sign of slower growth as we move through the end of the year.

U.S. Jobs Health

U.S Jobs Health is comprised of Dun & Bradstreet’s proprietary indicators that forecast that the labor market, based on nonfarm payroll employment figures. It combines Small Business Health Index industry data with U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures to forecast monthly nonfarm payroll employment.

Dun & Bradstreet predicts that 584,000 jobs were added to the nonfarm payroll in October, as payroll gains get back on track following two-consecutive months of below consensus growth. Downward pressure on initial jobless claims, which remained below 300,000 for the fourth consecutive week, indicates continued momentum within the labor market.  Additonally, Job gains are likely to be recorded across all our major categories, with gains in construction, manufacturing, and real estate likely being the most robust.  

U.S. Overall Business Health Index

The U.S. Overall Business Health Index provides a weighted average of the D&B Viability Rating®, the D&B® Delinquency Predictor Score, and the D&B® Total Loss Predictor. The Overall Business Health Index (OBHI) measures the aggregate risk of a confirmed active and open businesses paying in a severely delinquent manner (91+ DPD), recording a first payment default or becoming no longer active. The index tracks conditions at both the geographic (National, census region, state and Metro Statistical Area) and industry level (SIC). The index provides a benchmark for determining business level financial stress. It ranges from zero (with all businesses recording high levels of risk) to 100% (with all businesses recording low levels of risk).

Following two sequential months of decline an improvement among Dun & Bradstreet’s standard risks scores were recorded in September. The Overall Business Health Index rose 0.2% m/m with improvement recorded among both the Total Loss Predictor and the Commercial Credit Score. Despite this month’s recovery the overall index remains 0.8% below its recent peak recorded just this past June. 

 

Perspectives

As the Federal Reserve begins to scale back its QE program in November the recent downward pressure on the Small Business Health Index (SBHI) is notable. The scaling back in monetary support comes at a time when the SBHI has recorded three consecutive months of sequential decline.  But despite the sequential decline, this month’s y/y change remains robust (+4.4%), albeit at a slower pace than recorded earlier in the year.  Slower momentum can be expected as last year’s base effects continue to play out. Keep in mind the SBHI currently remains above levels recorded just prior to last year’s pandemic, with card utilization rates, card delinquency rates, the failure ratio and percentage of dollars past due all above where they were in February of 2020. 

Meanwhile, Dun & Bradstreet’s Overall Business Health Index (OBHI), which is a broad measure of risk, improved slightly in September from August. While the index has recovered by 0.97% since hitting a pandemic low in July of last year, the recent flare up in the Delta variant of Covid-19 has resulted in a slight rise in risk since June. The recent slowdown among a broad set of macroeconomic variables will likely delay the recovery in the Overall Business Health Index from returning to the pre-pandemic levels, meaning that near-term risk may be elevated for a period of time.       

Report based on data available as of November 2, 2021.