PHILADELPHIA -- The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's regional business outlook survey for June found continued growth in manufacturing activity, but it was somewhat less rapid than in the past three months.

June saw the first report of increased manufacturing employment in nine months, and respondents said hiring should increase more over the next six months.

The Philadelphia Fed assesses economic activity using a diffusion index, or the difference between those reporting increases and those reporting declines.

In June, about 32% reported an expansion of business over May's level, while 21% reported a decline.

The June diffusion index of 10.9 was the fourth consecutive monthly positive reading, but was down from 19.6 in May.

No change was reported by 44% of respondents in June.

Labor Demand Picks Up

The sustained increase in manufacturing activity has apparently increased demand for labor.

The diffusion index for employment registered 7.6 in June, the highest since March 1989.

The only other time in the past 34 months that the index has been positive was in September 1991.

Although 61% of the companies reported no change in employment since the preceding month, 24% reported gains in employment and only 16% reported cuts.

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