The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas conducts the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey monthly to obtain a timely assessment of the state’s factory activity. Firms are asked whether output, employment, orders, prices and other indicators increased, decreased or remained unchanged over the previous month. Responses are aggregated into balance indexes where positive values generally indicate growth while negative values generally indicate contraction.

On Monday, the Dallas Fed ran this headline:

Modest growth resumes in Texas manufacturing, but outlooks continue to worsen

From the release: “Texas factory activity expanded slightly in March after contracting in February. The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, moved up from -2.8 to 2.5, a reading suggestive of a modest increase in output.

Further, other measures of manufacturing activity showed mixed signals this month, including:

  • The new orders index was negative for a 10th month in a row and came in at -14.3, little changed from February.
  • The growth rate of orders index was also negative and largely unchanged, at -15.2.
  • The capacity utilization index returned to positive territory, moving up six points to 2.3.
  • The shipments index pushed down from -5.0 to -10.5.

Perceptions of broader business conditions continued to worsen in March. The general business activity index slipped two points to -15.7. The company outlook index remained negative but rose four points to -13.3. The outlook uncertainty index came in at 22.0, down slightly from February but still elevated.

Labor market measures suggest a resumption of employment growth and continued lengthening of workweeks. The employment index shot up 11 points to 10.4 after dipping below zero last month. Twenty-four percent of firms noted net hiring, while 14 percent noted net layoffs. The hours worked index edged down to 2.6, a reading slightly below average.

Price and wage pressures receded in March, though wage growth remained elevated relative to average. The raw materials prices index retreated five points to 20.3, falling further below its series average of 27.9. The finished goods prices index dropped from 15.8 to 7.0, falling below its series average of 9.0 for the first time since 2020. The wages and benefits index inched down two points to 30.5.

Expectations regarding future manufacturing activity were mixed in March. The future production index remained positive but fell eight points to 13.5, signaling well-below-average output growth is expected over the next six months. The future general business activity index pushed further negative, from -2.9 to -11.2. Most other measures of future manufacturing activity remained positive but moved lower this month.