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After treading water since the beginning of winter, local manufacturers found a new spring in their step during April.

Manufacturers in the Buffalo Niagara region enjoyed their strongest growth in seven months during April, as workloads picked up and new orders flowed in at an accelerating pace, according to a survey of local purchasing managers.

“It was a good month, production picked up, and employment was good for the second month in a row,” said Jay K. Walker, a Niagara University economist who compiles the monthly business activity report for the National Association of Purchasing Management – Buffalo.

The April growth spurt was in stark contrast to the tightrope that local manufacturers had been walking since December, when the monthly survey regularly found stability but little improvement in the local factory sector.

“This showed a marked change from the past four months and is a strong sign of expanding manufacturing activity,” Walker said.

The group’s business activity index jumped to 62.2 during April – its highest level since October and well above its reading of 52.8 in March. That put the index well above the tipping point of 50 – the dividing line between a growing and contracting manufacturing sector – for the first time since November.

The strength during April was almost across the board, with production and new orders rising strongly, while hiring expanded for the second straight month, and inventories grew.

The biggest positive for the month was a spike in production, which hit its highest level since September at local factories and extended an expansion that began at the beginning of this year. Two-thirds of the companies surveyed said they increased production last month, up from 22 percent during March, and none said their output fell last month.

The flow of new orders grew for the ninth straight month, but the pace of that growth accelerated to its strongest since August, with 5 in 9 managers surveyed reporting an increase in orders.

“These strong increases in orders may signal increased activity as we enter the summer,” Walker said.

The pace of hiring also picked up for the second straight month and was at its most robust rate since June, with one-third of the managers saying their companies added staff last month, while none cut jobs.

Inventories grew for the second straight month, while commodity prices rose at a slightly slower pace than they did during March.

email: drobinson@buffnews.com