PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Manufacturing activity in the Mid-Atlantic area expanded in March for the seventh month in a row, a sign that the economic recovery is continuing.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said Thursday that its manufacturing index rose to 18.9 this month from 17.6 in February.
For the fourth month in a row, the percentage of manufacturers in the Mid-Atlantic region that saw an increase in employment outpaced those that didn't see a gain. Current employment levels in the region are at their highest in almost three years, although only 17 percent of surveyed employers said they added jobs.
The report from the Philadelphia Fed is one of the earliest indicators of national manufacturing activity for March. Many manufacturers laid out their production plans for March at the start of the month, which is why the Philadelphia Fed can release its report before the month is over.
But activity for current new orders fell in March, as did shipments. Inventories shrunk as well in March following an increase in February, which was the first gain since September 2007.
Surveyed manufacturers said they paid higher prices for materials used in production, but 74 percent said that prices for their products remained the same.
About 57 percent of those surveyed expect production to increase in the second quarter while 17 percent expected decreases. In March of last year, more companies expected production declines.
The report surveyed manufacturers in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware.