Empire State Mfg Survey: Headline Sees Slight Decrease In December

This morning we got the latest Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The diffusion index for General Business Conditions at 4.9 was a decrease of 1.4 from the previous month's 6.3. The Investing.com forecast was for a reading of 6.9.

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 edged slightly higher in New York State, according to firms responding to the December 2020 Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The headline general business conditions index was little changed at 4.9. New orders increased marginally, and shipments were modestly higher. Inventories continued to move lower, and delivery times edged up. Employment posted its strongest gain in months, and the average workweek lengthened somewhat. Input prices increased at the fastest pace in two years, while selling prices increased at about the same pace as last month. Looking ahead, firms remained optimistic that conditions would improve over the next six months. [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 two complete business cycles 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 giant dip in 2020 due to COVID-19.

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

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