Responses to the Business Outlook Survey this month suggest that regional manufacturing activity has dipped significantly. The survey’s broad indicators for activity, shipments, and new orders all declined sharply from last month. Firms indicated that employment and average work hours are lower this month. Price indexes continued to show a trend of moderating price pressures. The broadest indicator of future activity also weakened markedly, but firms still expect overall growth in shipments, new orders, and employment over the next six months. The collection period for this month’s survey ran from August 8-16, overlapping a week of unusually high volatility in both domestic and international financial markets.
All Indicators Show Declines
The survey’s broadest measure of manufacturing conditions, the diffusion index of current activity, decreased from a slightly positive reading of 3.2 in July to -30.7 in August. The index is now at its lowest level since March 2009 (see Chart). The demand for manufactured goods, as measured by the current new orders index, paralleled the decline in the general activity index, falling 27 points. The current shipments index fell 18 points and recorded its first negative reading since September of last year. Suggesting weakening activity, indexes for inventories, unfilled orders, and delivery times were all in negative territory this month.
Firms’ responses suggest a deterioration in the labor market compared with July. The current employment index fell 14 points, recording its first negative reading in 12 months. About 18 percent of the firms reported an increase in employment, but 23 percent reported a decrease. The percentage of firms reporting a shorter workweek (28 percent) was greater than the percentage reporting a longer one (14 percent). The workweek index fell 9 points.
Price Indexes Show Further Moderation
Diffusion indexes for prices paid and prices received were lower this month and suggest a continued trend of moderating price pressures. The prices paid index declined 12 points and has now declined 36 points over the last three months. More firms reported declines in prices received for their products this month (19 percent) than reported increases (10 percent). The prices received index decreased 10 points, resulting in the first negative reading since last November."
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