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Manufacturers See Slow Pace of Growth

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Contact: Marilyn Wimp, E-mail Manager of Media Relations, (215) 574-4197

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Responses to November's Business Outlook Survey suggest that regional manufacturing is expanding, but at a slow pace. The survey's broad indicators for activity, shipments, and new orders recorded positive readings this month, but all declined slightly from their October readings. Employment conditions improved, as indicated by increases in the indexes for employment and average workweek. The broadest indicator of future activity showed marked improvement, and firms were notably more optimistic about future employment.

Special Questions: Capacity Utilization Rates

  • The survey participants responded to special questions about their plants' current capacity utilization rate compared with last year's rate and about their plans for capital spending on plant and equipment in 2012.
  • The average capacity utilization rate among the firms polled increased from 73 percent in November 2010 to the current rate of near 75 percent.
  • The share of firms expecting to increase their capital spending on plant and equipment (35 percent) was slightly greater than the share planning reductions (33 percent).

Labor Market

  • Labor market conditions improved according to the firms responding. Twenty-one percent of the firms reported an increase in employment, a slight increase from 18 percent last month. The current employment index increased 11 points from its reading in October, attributable also to a decline in the share of firms reporting decreases in employment.
  • The average workweek index increased 8 points, to its highest level in seven months.


  • The percentage of firms reporting increases in prices received for their manufactured goods (15 percent) was nearly matched by the percentage reporing decreases (13 percent) this month. The prices received diffusion index increased from a reading of -2.5 last month to 2.6.
  • The majority of firms (69 percent) reported steady prices for their own manufactured products in November. The prices paid diffusion index increased 3 points but is near its average reading over the past three months.
  • The prices paid diffusion index increased 3 points but is near its average reading over the past three months. Thirty-one percent of firms reported paying higher prices for inputs this month, and 9 percent reported lower prices.

This survey, which was started in 1968, gathers information on the manufacturing industry in the Third Federal Reserve District covering eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware. The survey asks about the current pace of business in the participants' plants and their future expectations of business.

To arrange an interview, contact Marilyn Wimp, E-mail the Bank's manager of media relations, at (215) 574-4197. The next Business Outlook Survey will be released at 10 a.m., Thursday, December 15, 2011, and will be made available on our website and over Businesswire. External Link The aggregate historical data series is also available on the Bank’s website.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia helps formulate and implement monetary policy, supervises banks and bank and savings and loan holding companies, and provides financial services to depository institutions and the federal government. It is one of the 12 regional Reserve Banks that, together with the Board of Governors in Washington, D.C., make up the Federal Reserve System. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank serves eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware.

Related Resources

Business Outlook Survey

Download the chart for this month's survey. (64 KB)

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