Philly Fed Manufacturing Index Soars to Highest Level in Nearly 50 Years

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA skyline over Center City at sunset.
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Regional factory activity recently jumped to the highest level in nearly 50 years, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said Thursday.

The Philly Fed’s manufacturing activity index soared to 51.8 in March from 23.1 in the prior month. That’s the best since 1973.

Economists had forecast that the gauge would remain more or less flat for the month.

“Nearly 59 percent of the firms reported increases in current activity this month (up from 35 percent last month), while only 7 percent reported decreases (down from 11 percent),” the Philly Fed said.

The report covers the Philadelphia Fed’s home territory of over 13.3 million people in Delaware, southern New Jersey, and eastern and central Pennsylvania

The new orders measure skyrocketed to 50.9 in March, also a 50 year high, from 23.4 in the prior month. The shipments index moved to 30.2 from 21.5 in February.

The employment index improved for the third straight month.

“Nearly 32 percent of the responding firms reported increases in employment, while only 1 percent of the firms reported decreases. The current workweek index increased 9 points to 39.7,” the Philly Fed said.

The expectations barometer, which measures the six-month outlook, exploded higher to 61.6 from 39.5 in the prior month.

The prices paid index jumped to 75.9 in March from 54.4 in the prior month. That’s the highest reading since March 1980. The prices-received index also moved up, although only by a less dramatic 15 points to 31.8.

The explosive March reading suggests that President Donald Trump left the economy on a much stronger footing than was previously understood. President Trump put strengthening manufacturing at the core of his economic policies and the sector has proven a bright point for the economy during the pandemic.

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