Empire State Manufacturing Survey: Activity Contracted Sharply in January

This article was originally written by Doug Short. From 2016-2022, it was improved upon and updated by Jill Mislinski. Starting in January 2023, AP Charts pages will be maintained by Jennifer Nash at Advisor Perspectives/VettaFi.

This morning we got the latest Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The diffusion index for general business conditions was -32.9, which was a decrease of 21.7 from the previous month's -11.2. This was the index's lowest reading since May 2020 and the fifth worst reading in survey history. The Investing.com forecast was for a reading of -8.7.

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, and 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 contracted sharply in New York State, according to firms responding to the January 2023 Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The headline general business conditions index fell twenty-two points to -32.9. New orders and shipments declined substantially. Delivery times held steady, and inventories edged higher. Employment growth stalled, and the average workweek shortened. Input price increases slowed considerably, and selling price increases also moderated. Looking ahead, firms expect little improvement in business conditions 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

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 of 2008, 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).