NEW YORK - The Empire State Manufacturing Survey showed the fourth straight month of expanded manufacturing activity expanded in New York State, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported Thursday as the general business conditions index improved to 20.21 in March from 19.53 in February.

Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected the index would slip to 17.85.

The new orders index slid to 6.84 from 9.73, while the shipments index fell to 18.21 from 22.79, and unfilled orders improved to negative 1.23 from negative 7.06, the Fed said.

The delivery time index grew to 7.41 from 1.18, while the inventories index climbed to zero from negative 4.71 in the prior survey. The prices paid index surged to 50.62 from 25.88, while the prices received index fell to 13.58 from 15.29. The number of employees index increased to 13.58 from 11.76, while the average employee workweek index grew to 18.52 from 7.06, the Fed reported.

Looking six months into the future, the general business conditions index decreased to 47.50 from 50.38 last month. The new orders index slid to 41.98 from 44.71, while the shipments index fell to 43.21 from 49.41, and unfilled orders climbed to 8.64 from 4.71, the Fed said. The delivery time index gained to 4.94 from 2.35, while the inventories index slipped to 4.94 from 10.59.

The prices paid index increased to 66.67 from 62.35, while the prices received index slid to 32.10 from 34.12. The number of employees index gained to 32.10 from 29.41, while the average employee workweek index rose to 20.99 from 18.82, the Fed reported. The capital expenditures expectations index rose to 32.10 from 31.76. The technology spending index grew to 24.69 from 18.82.

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