Empire State Manufacturing Survey: Modest Increase in August

This morning we got the latest Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The diffusion index for General Business Conditions at 4.8 was an increase of 0.5 from the previous month's 4.3. The Investing.com forecast was for a reading of 3.0.

The Empire State Manufacturing Index rates the relative level of general business conditions in New York state. A level above 0.0 indicates improving conditions, below indicates worsening conditions. The reading is compiled from a survey of about 200 manufacturers in New York state.

Here is the opening paragraph from the report.

Business activity increased modestly in New York State, according to firms responding to the August 2019 Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The headline general business conditions index was little changed at 4.8. New orders increased after declining for the prior two months, and shipments continued to expand. Unfilled orders fell, delivery times were steady, and inventories increased. The employment and average workweek indexes were both slightly below zero, pointing to sluggishness in labor market conditions. Input prices increased at a slightly slower pace than last month, and selling price increases were little changed. Indexes assessing the six-month outlook indicated that firms were somewhat less optimistic about future conditions than they were in July. [full report]

Here is a chart of the current conditions and its 3-month moving average, which helps clarify the trend for this extremely volatile indicator:

Empire State Manufacturing

Click this link to access a PDF set of charts of the individual components over the past 12 months.

Since this survey only goes back to July of 2001, we only have one complete business cycle with which to evaluate its usefulness as an indicator for the broader economy. Following the Great Recession, the index has slipped into contraction multiple times, as the general trend slowed. We saw a gradual decline in 2015 that picked up in 2016, with a decline starting in mid- to late-2018.

Here is an overlay of the current and future conditions (a six-month outlook).

Meanwhile, here's another look at the latest ISM Manufacturing Business Activity Index.