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Manufacturing activity expands at much weaker pace in Philly area; hiring declines


WASHINGTON — Factory activity in the Philadelphia region grew at a much slower pace in January compared with the previous month, as orders, shipments and hiring tumbled.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said Thursday that its index of regional factory activity fell to 6.3 this month from 24.3 in December. Any figure above zero indicates expansion.

The survey adds to the mixed picture of manufacturing painted by several different reports. The Philly Fed index has fallen sharply for two months, after reaching the highest point in more than two decades in November. Meanwhile, a separate survey Thursday from the New York Fed found that factory growth in that state has picked up this month.

Manufacturing nationwide expanded in December but at the slowest pace in six months, according to a survey by Institute for Supply Management released earlier this month. Orders and production grew, but much more slowly.

Most Philly-area factories were optimistic about future demand, the Fed survey found. And 63 percent said that falling oil prices are helping their businesses by lowering their costs of production.

The survey covers manufacturing in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Healthy sales of autos, furniture and other big-ticket items have generally driven up manufacturing output in the past year, helping drive solid economic growth.

Factory production jumped in November, surpassing its pre-recession peak, the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C. said last month. Strong auto manufacturing contributed to the greater output.

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