Empire State Manufacturing Survey: Activity Increases in July

This morning we got the latest Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The diffusion index for General Business Conditions at 17.2 was an increase of 17.4 from the previous month's -0.2. The Investing.com forecast was for a reading of 10.0.

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 in New York State for the first time in several months, according to firms responding to the July 2020 Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The headline general business conditions index rose to 17.2, its first positive reading since February. New orders and shipments also increased, and unfilled orders were steady. Delivery times were somewhat longer, and inventories declined. Employment levels and the average workweek were little changed. Input price increases were not much different than last month, while selling prices edged lower. Firms remained optimistic about the six-month outlook, though less so than in June. [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).

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