Improvements in Key Printing Industry Indicators Provide Some Hope in Face of Continuing Sales Declines
Key printing industry indicators, including work-on-hand, business conditions and the NAPL Printing Business Index (PBI), increased in September for the second consecutive month, following a particularly weak performance in June and July. The National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL) forecasted, however, that before full recovery takes hold, these indicators are likely to fall again as part of what’s been a frustratingly slow and erratic climb out of recession. The indices are tracked by NAPL’s Printing Economics Research Center (PERC), which produces research and publications sponsored by Heidelberg, Kennesaw, GA.
“Business picks up for a while and then slows down again,” said Andrew Paparozzi, NAPL vice president and chief economist. “What’s more, even when the Printing Business Index goes up, it means activity is picking up from deeply depressed levels. Also, there’s no evidence that the recent gains in our Index will be sustained. We had just as impressive gains in early 2002, nearly half of which were lost by the end of summer.
“What all this means is that recovery from our worst recession in nearly 30 years is going to come in very small steps,” Mr. Paparozzi said.
Sales figures underscore the challenges printers face. Sales fell 5.5 percent in August for the NAPL Printing Business Panel, marking the 15th consecutive decline and the 18th decline in the last 21 months.
The NAPL Printing Business Index (PBI), the association’s most comprehensive measure of print activity, reached its highest point since September 2000, rising to 54.3 in September 2002, up from 51.9 in August and well above July’s 45.5.This marks the second consecutive reading above the critical 50.0 mark—the point at which more printers report activity is picking up than report activity is slowing down.
The key question is whether the gains will be sustainable, but NAPL forecasts an erratic and slow rather than a steady recovery.
The NAPL PBI combines input from the association’s printing business panel about work-on-hand, current business conditions, expected business conditions (confidence), hiring plans, profitability and other key indicators into a single measure of activity. The panel is a representative group of more than 300 printers which NAPL surveys monthly on a range of key printing issues. Since the same companies are surveyed every time, data are strictly comparable from period to period.
NAPL Printing Business Index
A reading above 50.0 means more printers report activity is picking up than report activity is slowing down; a reading below 50.0 means the opposite.
Mr. Paparozzi noted that NAPL’s printing industry indicators are generally reliable precursors to how the economy in general is performing. “The printing business reflects an upturn or a downturn in many sectors of the economy almost immediately,” he said. “There’s none of the lag time that there is with many other indicators.”
R&E Council Becomes R&E Council of NAPL
The board of directors of the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL) and the members of the Research and Engineering Council of the Graphic Arts Industry, Inc. (R&E Council) have approved a merger of the two printing industry trade associations. The combination is expected to enhance the value of membership in both organization significantly as it preserves the identity and mission of the R&E Council, which is being renamed the R&E Council of NAPL. Under the agreement, all members of the R&E Council and their companies are being enrolled as full corporate members of NAPL.
The merger, which grew out of the strategic alliance that was established last year between the two organizations, will provide expanded services to both groups.
While R&E Council members will benefit from access to NAPL’s printing management and economic resources, NAPL members will have access to the R&E Council’s resources for educating printing industry personnel in the latest technologies and productivity improvement methods.