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Economy’s improving, says Fed

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Economic conditions continued to improve in January, according to the firms responding to this month’s Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

The indexes for general activity, new orders, and employment were all positive this month and increased from their readings last month. Manufacturers have generally grown more optimistic in their forecasts over the past two months. The future indexes for growth over the next six months, including employment, continued to improve this month.

Forty percent of the firms reported increases in activity this month; 17 percent reported decreases. The other broad indicators suggest sustaining growth. About 41 percent of the firms reported increases in new orders. The shipments index remained at a high. Both the delivery times and unfilled orders indexes were positive for the third consecutive month, suggesting longer delivery times and an increase in unfilled orders.

Firms reported an increase in manufacturing employment this month. The average workweek index, has now been positive for three consecutive months.

Price increases were more widespread this month. On the cost side, nearly 35 percent of the firms reported increases in the prices paid for inputs; only 2 percent reported paying lower prices. About 31 percent of firm reported receiving high prices for their own manufactured goods, up from 16 percent in December.

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