The Philly Fed's Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey is a monthly report for the Third Federal Reserve District, covers eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware. While it focuses exclusively on business in this district, this regional survey gives a generally reliable clue as to the direction of the broader Chicago Fed's National Activity Index.

The latest Manufacturing Index came in at 27.5, up 70.6 from last month's -43.1. The 3-month moving average came in at -24.1, down from -37.5 last month. Since this is a diffusion index, negative readings indicate contraction, positive ones indicate expansion. The Six-Month Outlook came in at 66.3, up from the previous month's 49.7.

The 27.5 headline number came in well above the -23 forecast at Investing.com.

Here is the introduction from the survey:

Manufacturing conditions in the region showed signs of improvement this month, according to firms responding to the June Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey. The survey’s current indicators for general activity, new orders, and shipments returned to positive territory, coinciding with the gradual reopening of the economy in our region and the nation more broadly. The employment index remained negative but increased for the second consecutive month. All future indicators improved, suggesting that the firms expect overall growth over the next six months. (Full Report)

The first chart below gives us a look at this diffusion index since 2000, which shows us how it has behaved in proximity to the two 21st century recessions. The red dots show the indicator itself, which is quite noisy, and the 3-month moving average, which is more useful as an indicator of coincident economic activity. We can see periods of contraction in 2011, 2012 and 2015, and a shallower contraction in 2013.

In the next chart, we see the complete series, which dates from May 1960. For proof of the high volatility of the headline indicator, note that the average absolute monthly change across this data series is 7.9.

The next chart is an overlay of the General Activity Index and the Future General Activity Index — the outlook six months ahead.