A crucial index that measures manufacturing activity in New York collapsed to a historic low in April, and companies have only slight optimism of any improvement in the next six months, according to new data released Wednesday.
The Empire State Manufacturing Index fell to -78.2, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said -- more than 40 points below its all-time low and nearly 50 points lower than Wall Street analysts expected.
The numbers were brutal across the board, particularly when it came to employment. Some 60 percent of manufacturers reported employing less people, and 65 percent reported their employees were working fewer hours.
The data offered little in the way of optimism either.
"Firms anticipate only a small improvement in business conditions over the next six months," the New York Fed. Measures of expected new orders and shipments remain very slightly positive, indicating just a little growth.
But measures of capital and technology spending are sharply negative, suggesting businesses will do little to improve their systems or infrastructure this year. And more than one-quarter of businesses also forecast they'd have fewer employees in six months than they do now.