Since late 2012, the economic policy team at Thumbtack has been surveying the hundreds of thousands of the small service professionals who use Thumbtack to find new clients. We ask them about conditions in the local economy, the job market, and their expectations for inflation. This survey is unique because no one else can reach such a large number of difficult-to-reach service business owners on a monthly basis.
Today we released the data from our August survey. We’ve seen over the course of the summer a steady decline in the reported sentiment of the small businesses we talk with – this has consistently been led by a decline in expectations about the future. This month we wanted to look more deeply into how perceptions about the economy varied by industry. For purposes of this analysis, respondents are classified by where they fit in the North American Industry Classification System.
First, we noticed a general trend in how industries responded to our survey – service pros in industries like construction, cleaning, catering, and moving were generally more positive about the economy than pros in lessons, business services, and Thumbtack’s wellness categories. For lack of any better terms this split can be thought of as being between “blue-collar” services vs. “white-collar” services – the split here correlates, in part, with the education levels of service pros on Thumbtack, with the generally more educated pros reporting lower sentiment than those with less than a college degree (more on that in a later post):
We then looked at this trend over time, focusing on the monthly data we’ve collected just over the past six months, and saw clear clustering of sentiment over time by industry. Food services, transportation, cleaning, and construction are clustered at the top, with lessons, entertainers, professional services, and information clustered at the bottom:
All industries have seen a decline in sentiment since March, with five industries consistently reporting sentiment levels higher than the other seven.
Finally, we looked at the different trends in each industry going back a year to Q3 of 2014, indexing all scores to that date. Keep in mind that we didn’t start collecting data on a monthly basis until March of this year, which explains the gaps in this chart:
There was a sharp rise in sentiment across industries in the second half of last year, with a steady decline that coincides with our collection of monthly data in March of this year. Professionals in Transportation and Warehousing were driving the boost in overall sentiment in late 2014, and have returned to lower, but still elevated, levels.
Construction pros have shown a similar trend and as we collect more months of data we can more confidently say that these were not seasonal trends but indicative of something broader happening in the industry. The only industry that is below where they were in Q3 of 2014 is real estate, which reported a sharp decline between May and June of this year, perhaps related to fears about a Fed rate hike affecting the housing market, from which they have not recovered.
We’ll continue to monitor the data to see what insights we can learn about the American economy generally, tracking trends by industry and also by state. You can find updates to our survey on the Tuesday before the BLS jobs report every month. For more information on the methodology behind this survey and who the survey population is, see here.