PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank said key mid-Atlantic manufacturing indexes pushed closer to the break-even level in September.
The business survey, taken midway through the month, found the diffusion index of manufacturing activity gained five points to minus 1.9, close to the break even level of zero.
In the previous month, the index gained six points.
The Fed reported Thursday that the index has been negative for five consecutive months, but "has been edging nearer to zero over the last three months."
The component index for new orders added seven points, pushing into positive territory for the first month out of the past five. The shipments index fell, however, dropping 10 points to minus 21.2.
In the month, 23 percent of the businesses responding to the survey indicated business was in decline -- smaller than the 30 percent reporting declines in August.
However, "Labor market conditions remained weak," the Fed said.
The current employment index came in at minus 7.3, little changed from August and July.
Twenty-two percent of the respondents indicated their firms were letting employees go, while 15 percent indicated they were increasing the size of their payrolls, the Fed said.