When the pandemic hit in early 2020, many businesses quickly and significantly expanded opportunities for their employees to work from home, resulting in a large increase in the share of work being done remotely. Now, more than two years later, how much work is being done from home? In this post, we update our analysis from last year on the extent of remote work in the region. As has been found by others, we find that some of the increase in remote work that began early in the pandemic is sticking. According to firms responding to our August regional business surveys, about 20 percent of all service work and 7 percent of manufacturing work is now being conducted remotely, well above shares before the pandemic, and firms expect little change in these shares a year from now. While responses were mixed, slightly more firms indicated that remote working had reduced rather than increased productivity. Interestingly, however, the rise in remote work has not led to widespread reductions in the amount of workspace being utilized by businesses in the region.
As the economy continues to recover from the pandemic, a combination of strong demand, severe supply disruptions, widespread labor shortages, and surging energy prices has contributed to a rapid increase in inflation. Indeed, the inflation rate, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), has exceeded 8 percent over the past year, the fastest pace of price increase since the early 1980s. If businesses and consumers expect inflation to be high in the future because it is elevated today, they may change their behavior accordingly, which can make inflation even more persistent. In other words, expectations about the path of future inflation can affect how current inflation will actually evolve. In particular, among businesses, expectations about future inflation can shape how they set wages and prices. Our May regional business surveys asked firms what they expected inflation to be one year, three years, and five years from now. Responses indicate that while businesses, like consumers, expect high inflation to continue over the next year, such elevated levels of inflation are not expected to persist over longer time horizons.
Even before the start of the new year, businesses in the tri-state region were hampered by supply disruptions, rising input costs, and difficulty finding adequate staff. On top of these challenges, the Omicron wave dealt another setback to the regional economy. With infections running high, many businesses were forced to deal with a combination of reduced demand from customers and renewed absenteeism among workers. Indeed, our regional business surveys indicate that economic growth stalled in early 2022 as firms continued to struggle to find workers. Moreover, employee absenteeism was reported to be nearly three times its normal level. While the path of recovery remains highly uncertain, firms generally expect conditions to improve in the months ahead and many are still adding or planning to add staff.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s June business surveys show some signs of improvement in the regional economy. Following two months of unprecedented decline due to the coronavirus pandemic, indicators of business activity point to a slower pace of contraction in the service sector and signs of a rebound in the manufacturing sector. Even more encouraging, as the regional economy has begun to reopen, many businesses have started to recall workers who were laid off or put on furlough since the start of the pandemic. Some have even hired new workers. Moreover, businesses expect to recall even more workers over the next month. Looking ahead, firms have become increasingly optimistic that conditions will improve in the coming months.
Indicators of regional business activity plunged to historic lows in early April, as efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus kept many people at home and shut down large parts of the regional economy, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s two business surveys. The headline index for both surveys plummeted to nearly -80, well below any historical precedent including the depths of the Great Recession. About 60 percent of service firms and more than half of manufacturers reported at least a partial shutdown of their operations thus far. Layoffs were widespread, with half of all businesses surveyed reporting lower employment levels in early April.
The April 2015 Empire State Manufacturing Survey, released today, points to continued weakness in New York’s manufacturing sector. The survey’s headline general business conditions index turned slightly negative for the first time since December, falling 8 points to -1.2 in a sign that the growth in manufacturing had paused. The new orders index—a bellwether of demand for manufactured goods—was also negative, pointing to a modest decline in orders for a second consecutive month. Employment growth slowed, too. The Empire Survey has been signaling sluggish growth since October of last year after fairly strong readings from May through September.
The results of this morning’s November Empire State Manufacturing Survey point to slightly weaker conditions in New York’s manufacturing sector.
The results of this morning’s November Empire State Manufacturing Survey point to a slight decline in business conditions in New York’s manufacturing sector in the wake of “superstorm” Sandy.
February’s Empire State Manufacturing Survey (ESMS) indicates that manufacturing activity in New York State continued to expand for a third consecutive month.
Just Released: July’s Empire State Manufacturing Survey Shows Ongoing Weakness in New York Manufacturing
The July Empire State Manufacturing Survey, published today, indicates that manufacturing conditions continued to weaken in New York State. The survey’s headline index was -3.8, the second negative reading in a row, and suggested that, overall, manufacturing activity declined slightly in New York. Because the survey is a diffusion index, readings below zero indicate that more respondents reported worsening conditions than improving conditions. Lower (or higher) values of the index indicate more widespread decline (or improvement). The Empire State Manufacturing Survey is the first available indicator of manufacturing activity for the month. While it is entirely possible that what we are seeing is idiosyncratic to New York State, July’s report raises questions about whether the manufacturing sector is experiencing a temporary bump in the road, or is headed toward a more sustained slowdown. In this post, we review some of the highlights of today’s report.