By Ed Frankl

Manufacturing activity in the U.S. central region slowed marginally in February, at a more moderate pace than the prior month, as demand returned and employment improved, data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond showed Tuesday.

The Fifth District Survey of Manufacturing Activity index came in at minus 5 points in February, from minus 15 reported in January. Economists had expected a reading of minus 8, according to a consensus of economists polled by The Wall Street Journal. It was the fourth negative monthly reading in a row.

The index is compiled by surveying manufacturing firms across the Fifth Federal Reserve District, which comprises the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and most of West Virginia.

The increase in the index was driven by better demand and a rebound in workers. The indicator for new orders rose to minus 5 from minus 16 in January, while the employment component jumped to a positive reading of seven, from minus 15. However, shipments remained subdued, with the index remaining at minus 15.

Firms were slightly more optimistic about local business conditions, with the indicator there reaching a positive figure of 1 after negative numbers the last two months, the data said.

Average growth rates of prices paid fell in February, while prices received were mostly unchanged, the Richmond Fed said. Expected price changes over the next 12 months are set to moderate further, it added, indicating that inflationary pressures are due to ease.

Write to Ed Frankl at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

02-27-24 1036ET