Manufacturing activity in the central Atlantic region expanded in September, according to the monthly business activity survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, as the manufacturing index improved to positive 4 from negative 9 in August.

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

Shipments climbed to 9 from 1, the Fed reported. Volume of new orders grew to positive 7 from negative 20, while the backlog of orders index narrowed to negative 9 from negative 25.

The capacity utilization index improved to positive 3 from negative 9, while the vendor lead time index gained to negative 1 from negative 4. The number of employees index remained negative 5, while the average workweek index was at negative 5 after a negative 11 reading last month, and the wages index doubled to 6 from 3.

As for future outlook (six months from now), the shipments index was 20, up from 17 last month, while the volume of new orders index grew to 26 from 17, and backlog of orders climbed to 16 from 6. Capacity utilization gained to 23 from 21, the vendor lead time index rose to 13 from 5, the number of employees index decreased to 1 from 8, while the average workweek index was at 11, up from 10 the previous month, and the wages index was 21, up from 20 last month. The capital expenditures index was 2, after 10 last month.

The finished goods inventories index held at 18, while the raw materials index slid to 17 from 24 the previous month.

The current trend in prices paid rose to 1.42 in September from 1.32 in August, while falling to 0.44 from 0.51 for prices received. The expected trend for the next six months dropped to 1.33 from 2.78 for prices paid, and slid to 0.11 from 2.04 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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