Manufacturers might not love New York, at least this month.
New orders for manufacturers in the New York region fell sharply in March, as did indexes for shipments and unfilled orders.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said its general business conditions index plunged to 1.9 in March from 24.4 in February, its lowest level since May of 2005. The percentage of respondents reporting that conditions improved fell to 32 percent from 41, while the percentage reporting that conditions deteriorated rose to 30 from 17.
The new orders index plunged to 3.1 from 18.9, the shipments index fell to 18.5 from 27.1, and the unfilled orders index sank below zero, to -8.1.
Meanwhile, the prices paid index rose to 30.2 in March, with 30 percent of respondents seeing higher prices and none reporting lower prices. The prices received index eased slightly, but remained positive.
Despite the weakness in current conditions, the New York Fed said manufacturers are generally optimistic in their outlook. The future general business conditions index dipped just slightly, while the future new orders and shipments indexes moved higher.
As part of its monthly survey, the bank includes supplementary questions, and this month's asked how difficult it was for manufacturers to find workers with select skills. Across every category listed, manufacturers said it was modestly more difficult finding workers than in 2006. Workers with advanced computer skills were seen as the hardest to find, with a slight increase in the difficulty for finding workers who are punctual and reliable.
Manufacturers were also asked whether they were experiencing difficulty filling openings in particular occupational categories, and a slightly higher proportion than last year indicated difficulties finding production workers, sales workers, building maintenance personnel and business and finance workers.The Philadelphia Federal Reserve will release its closely watched manufacturing report later Thursday.