Mid-Atlantic Manufacturing Highest in 21 Years

Mid-Atlantic manufacturers are surging ahead in November, according to a survey released Thursday by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Fed's index of general business activity covering the regional factory sector surged to 40.8 in November from 20.7 in October and 22.5 in September.

The reading is the highest since December 1993 and blows past the 18.0 expected by economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal. Readings under zero denote contraction, and above-zero readings denote expansion.

Earlier Thursday, data provider Markit said its flash tally of U.S. manufacturers show November activity nationwide is at its weakest level since January.

But that's not the case in the Philadelphia region. The Fed survey shows its subindexes generally strengthened by large amounts this month.

"The percentage of firms reporting increased activity this month (49%) was significantly greater than the percentage reporting decreased activity (9%)," the report said.

The new orders index jumped to 35.7 from 17.3 last month. The shipments index increased to 31.9 from 16.6.

Demand for labor in the Philly area advanced this month to the highest readings in more than three years. The employees index rose to 22.4 from 12.1 in October. And the workweek index jumped to 7.8 this month after it dropped to a contractionary -1.3 in October from 4.4 in September.

Fewer Philadelphia area manufacturers are trying to raise their own selling prices after a flurry of markups reported in October. The prices-received index slowed to 11.5 after it jumped to 20.8 from 8.8. The prices-paid index fell to 17.3 from 27.6.

Philadelphia manufacturers remain optimistic about the next six months.

The general business expectations index edged up to 57.7 from 54.5 in October. The expected employment index rose to 31.5 from 28.0.