NEW YORK – “Manufacturing activity in the central Atlantic region advanced somewhat faster in January after firming somewhat in December,” according to the monthly business activity survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. “All broad indicators — shipments, new orders and employment — landed in positive territory, with manufacturers noting their first increase in worker numbers since September 2011.”

The manufacturing index increased to 12 in January from 3 in December.

Index readings above zero show expansion, while numbers below zero indicate contraction.

Shipments rose to 17 from 3, the Fed reported. Volume of new orders grew to 14 from 7, while the backlog of orders index decreased to negative 4 from positive 1.

The capacity utilization index climbed to 8 from zero, while the vendor lead time index slid to 3 from 4. The number of employees index reversed to positive 4 from negative 4 while the average workweek index was at 4 after a 3 reading last month, and the wages index remained at 10.

As for future outlook (six months from now), the shipments index was 36, up from 27 last month, while the volume of new orders index increased to 32 from 21, and backlog of orders jumped to 14 from 6. Capacity utilization rose to 28 from 19, the vendor lead time index grew to 11 from 2, the number of employees index climbed to 20 from 17, while the average workweek index was at 7, unchanged from the previous month, and the wages index was 19, up from 18 last month. The capital expenditures index was 15, after 7 last month.

The finished goods inventories index fell to 9 from 23, while the raw materials index gained to 18 from 13 the previous month.

The current trend in prices paid rose to 2.53 in January from 1.55 in December, while falling to 0.57 from 1.34 for prices received. The expected trend for the next six months increased to 3.15 from 2.70 for prices paid, and slid to 1.62 from 2.23 for prices received.

All firms surveyed are located within the Fifth Federal Reserve District, which includes the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and most of West Virginia.

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