Texas manufacturing expands in February, but at a slower rate
Feb 26, 2013 (Austin American-Statesman - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Texas manufacturing activity expanded for the 15th consecutive month in February, but overhanging concerns about the sluggish recovery and the fiscal wrangling in Washington cooled the pace of growth, according to a survey released Monday.
The state production index, a key measure of factory activity, dropped to 6.2 in February from 12.9 the prior month, according to the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey, released monthly by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
The positive figure indicates expansion, but the decline suggests a slower rate of growth.
The manufacturing survey tends to track closely with the performance of the broader Texas economy. As such, it provides one of the most-timely glimpses of the economic conditions in the state.
The impact of the slower growth could be seen throughout the granular indices included in the survey. New orders and shipments continued to expand, albeit at a sharply slower rate than the surge Texas producers reported in January, they report said.
Hiring increased slightly, according to the survey, but workweeks contracted in February. Manufacturers provide roughly 8 percent of the state's jobs, according to Texas Workforce Commission data.
The slower pace of growth left producers a little less optimistic about business conditions, the survey noted. All four indices that gauge manufacturers' outlooks remained in positive territory, but only expectations for general business activity six months out posted an increase, and that rise was slight.
Current outlooks, both for company-specific and general business conditions, were less positive in February.
The muted optimism was reflected by the anecdotal comments the Dallas Fed compiles as part of its survey. February's comments continued to reflect widespread concerns about federal regulations and weak demand, but several respondents also noted a rise in orders and a sense of cautious optimism.
"We see some signs that things might get better," one computer and electronic products manufacturer noted, "but it is too early to know if we are just running sideways."
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