The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, like other district FRBs (New York, Philadelphia, Richmond and Dallas), tracks its region’s manufacturing activity by surveying a number of important indicators such as general activity, production, shipments, orders, employment and prices for raw materials and finished products.
The latest results are indicating that the manufacturing activity declined to a weak growth level of 9 in March with more component measure declining than increasing while prices paid for raw materials declined somewhat at 33.
It's important to note that although this data-set has a history that only runs as far back as mid-2001, the composite index never fell below 10 during the "recovery" that followed the tech-wreck of the early aughts.
Today, we see the composite index not only remaining depressed but occasionally turning notably negative, clearly indicating the internal weakness of our current economic expansion and possibly presenting a strong signal of recession to come.
The following chart plots the seasonally adjusted Composite index since 2001 with the solid red line indicating the threshold between expansion and contraction.