Business and Industry

Manufacturing Data a Bad Sign for the Economy

The continuing slowdown is likely an indicator of rocky times ahead


A new TV commercial running in the New York region features Robert De Niro lauding the "new" New York State economy to the tune of Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind. Quick-cut shots of high-tech manufacturing assembly lines, silicon wafers, and spinning wind turbines (among others) accompany De Niro's voice-over about attracting businesses and creating jobs, lowering tax rates, and spurring innovation. The message is clear: Business and manufacturing in New York State is making a big comeback. It'd be nice if it were true.

For the second straight month, manufacturing activity in the New York region slowed, this time to the lowest level since April 2009, during the worst of the global recession. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York's Empire Manufacturing Survey dropped to a minus 10.4 reading in September, nearly double the slowdown from August's reading of minus 5.85, and five times as bad as the median forecast of the 53 economists surveyed by Bloomberg, which called for a reading of minus 2. The slowdown was broad and deep, from new orders and shipments to employment. All sank more than expected.