The Chicago Purchasing Managers’ Business Barometer — a regional manufacturing gauge — rose to 68.8 in January from 66.8 in December, the National Association of Purchasing Management-Chicago said Monday.

Steven Wood, chief economist at Insight Economics, said the January reading is the highest since July 1988 and indicates that manufacturing activity in the Chicago region is expanding robustly, as it has been for the past year.

The Chicago data is compiled on a seasonally adjusted basis. Index readings below 50 signals a slowing economy and levels above 50 suggests expansion.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters predicted a 65.0 reading for the regional indicator.

Production rose to 73.7 from 72.2 in the previous survey, new orders increased to 75.7 from 71.3, an index of backlogged orders gained to 60.6 from 60.1, and inventories slipped to 54.5 from 60.0.

Employment jumped to 64.1 from 58.4, supplier deliveries slowed to 59.8 in January from 63.2 in December, and prices paid rose to 81.7 from 78.0.

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