Factory activity in New York fell sharply in September for the second straight month

WASHINGTON – Factory activity in New York state sank for a second straight month in September, a sign that American manufacturers are struggling with fallout from lower energy prices and a strong dollar, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Tuesday.

The New York Fed’s Empire State manufacturing index registered minus 14.7 this month after a minus 14.9 in August. Last month’s reading was the lowest since 2009 during the Great Recession. And a measure of employment fell in September for the first time in more than two years — to minus 6.2 from a positive 1.8 in August.

A gauge of new orders came in at minus 12.9, and shipments registered minus 8.0.

The New York Fed also reported that manufacturers were less optimistic about the next six months. The index for future business conditions dropped to 23.2 from 33.6 in August.

Low oil prices have reduced demand for drilling equipment. And a stronger dollar has made U.S. goods more expensive in overseas markets.

Earlier this month, the Institute for Supply Management reported that growth at U.S. factories fell in August to its lowest level since May 2013. China’s slowing economy and customer worries about volatility in the stock market contributed to the slowdown.

But the Commerce Department said two weeks ago that factory orders posted a modest gain in July, lifted by a surge in demand for cars and trucks. In addition, a key category that tracks business investment plans posted its strongest gain in 13 months.