The numbers: The Philadelphia Federal Reserve said Thursday that its gauge of regional business activity sank to negative 19.4 in November from negative 8.7 in the prior month. Any reading below zero indicates deteriorating conditions.

Economists polled by the Wall Street Journal expected a negative 6 reading.

This is the lowest level of activity since May 2020. Excluding the pandemic, it is the lowest reading since May 2009.

Key details: New orders inched down to negative 16.2 in November from negative 15.9 in the prior month. The shipments index inched down to 7 from 8.6.

The measure of the six-month business outlook was less gloomy, rising to negative 7.1 from negative 14.9 in October.

Big picture: This is the fifth negative reading in the Philadelphia index in the past six months. The index is one of several regional manufacturing gauges that offer timely reads of the manufacturing sector.

Earlier this week, the similar Empire State survey released by the New York Fed showed manufacturing activity improved to 4.5 in November from negative 9.1 in the prior month.

The national ISM manufacturing index fell to 50.2% in October, the lowest reading since May 2020.