Chicago-area business activity saw only a slight contraction in the month of February, according to a report released by MNI Indicators on Friday.
MNI Indicators said its Chicago business barometer jumped to 49.0 in February from 42.9 in January, although a reading below 50 still indicates a contraction in regional business activity. Economists had expected the index to rise to 45.9.
The bigger than expected increase by the headline index came as the production index shifted back into expansion, surging up to an eight-month high of 51.0 in February from 42.7 in January.
The new orders also index also showed a significant increase, climbing to a six-month high of 49.1 in February from 41.5 in the previous month.
On the other hand, the report said the employment index slipped to 44.5 in February from 46.9 in January, hitting its lowest level since last July.
MNI Indicators said the prices index also fell to 52.9 in February from 56.1, indicating prices at the factory gate cooled for the second straight month.