The factory activity survey from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve fell to 18.9 from 19.5, the regional bank said. Economists had expected a steeper decline, to 17.0.
But the report’s details were stronger than the headline. The new orders gauge surged to 20.4 from 2.1, signalling stronger growth in the future, and the measure of shipments jumped to 29.4 from 12.2.
The two index components that cover labor were mixed. The gauge of number of employees fell to 10.1 from 10.9, while the average workweek rose to 18.8 from 3.8.
And the “future indexes” component of the report signalled that survey respondents continue to expect growth over the next six months. Most analysts believe the economy has finally pushed through the sluggishness caused by the slump in the oil sector.