April orders of manufacturing technology, or equipment for factories, in the Northeast were worth $72.3 million, a 4.4 percent increase from a year ago, according to the Association for Manufacturing Technology.
The equipment orders are an indication of what manufacturers are ordering to improve their facilities, as well as how strong business is for equipment makers.
But even if the latest monthly figures were stronger than the year-ago month, there's some caution in the annual figures. Year-to-date, Northeast manufacturing technology orders are down 4 percent from 2012, for a total value of equipment at slightly more than $251 million, according to Virginia-based AMT.
"Order totals leveled off to the averages we've seen so far this year, but they aren't out of line with analyst predictions," AMT President Douglas K. Woods said in a statement.
Nationally, April's manufacturing technology orders were worth about $373 million, or 12.6 percent lower than a year ago. Year-to-date orders were worth about $1.7 billion, or 7 percent less than in 2012.
"Likewise, the Purchasing Manager's Index recently dropped below 50 — indicating contraction within manufacturing — but hiring continued to expand throughout the industry," Woods said. "With auto sales strong, the housing industry showing signs of a true rebound, and consumer confidence on the rise, we expect to continue seeing steady but slower activity."