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Texas Manufacturing Activity Posts Slower Growth

Texas Business reports: Texas factory activity continued to increase in July, according to business executives responding to the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey.

The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, fell from 15.5 to 12, suggesting slightly slower output growth.

Other measures of current manufacturing activity also indicated slower growth in July. The new orders index was positive for the second month in a row, although it moved down from 7.9 to 1.4. Similarly, the shipments index posted its second consecutive positive reading but edged down from 9.6 to 7.4. The capacity utilization index came in at 8.7 after rising to 13.3 last month.

Perceptions of broader economic conditions were mixed in July. The general business activity plummeted to -13.2 after climbing into positive territory in June. Nearly 30 percent of manufacturers noted a worsening in the level of business activity in July, pushing the index to its lowest reading in 10 months. The company outlook index remained positive for the third month in a row but fell from 5.5 to 1.6.

Labor market indicators reflected stronger labor demand. Employment growth continued in July, although the index edged down from 13.7 to 11.8. Twenty-one percent of firms reported hiring new workers, while 10 percent reported layoffs. The hours worked index was 4.1, up slightly from its June reading.

Price pressures were largely unchanged in July, although compensation costs rose at a faster pace. The raw materials price index held steady at 3, suggesting only slight increases in input costs this summer after strong upward pressure earlier in the year. Selling prices fell for the fifth consecutive month in July; the finished goods price index was -5.5, virtually unchanged from last month’s reading. The wages and benefits index rose nearly 10 points to 22.9, largely due to a marked rise in the share of firms noting increased compensation costs. Looking ahead, 36 percent of respondents anticipate further increases in raw materials prices over the next six months, while 25 percent expect higher finished goods prices.

Expectations regarding future business conditions were less optimistic in July. The index of future general business activity slipped from 1.3 to -7.3, registering its first negative reading in 10 months. The index of future company outlook remained positive but fell from its June level, coming in at 5.3. Indexes for future manufacturing activity also decreased, although all remained in strong positive territory.

The Dallas Fed conducts the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey monthly to obtain a timely assessment of the state’s factory activity. Data were collected July 17–25, and 89 Texas manufacturers responded to the survey. Firms are asked whether output, employment, orders, prices and other indicators increased, decreased or remained unchanged over the previous month.

Survey responses are used to calculate an index for each indicator. Each index is calculated by subtracting the percentage of respondents reporting a decrease from the percentage reporting an increase. When the share of firms reporting an increase exceeds the share reporting a decrease, the index will be greater than zero, suggesting the indicator has increased over the prior month. If the share of firms reporting a decrease exceeds the share reporting an increase, the index will be below zero, suggesting the indicator has decreased over the prior month. An index will be zero when the number of firms reporting an increase is equal to the number of firms reporting a decrease.