Business conditions for New York State manufacturers (search) brightened considerably during June, a report said Monday, offering a flicker of hope for the nation's slumping factories.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York (search) said its Empire State Manufacturing Survey (search) soared to 26.8, the highest level in its brief two-year history, from 10.6 in May.

Investors look to the survey for an early snapshot of factory activity during the month. Its sharp gains could prompt economists to boost forecasts for other regional industrial measures.

Many of the Empire State survey's components showed solid improvement. New orders and shipments rose to 16.1 and 15.3 respectively, a potential harbinger of output hikes.

In another positive sign for production going forward, the six-month business outlook rose for a third straight month, to 58.4 in June from 55.6 in May.

Employment remained a sore spot, however, as factories fired more workers than they hired. The employment index dipped below zero after a one-month spurt in positive territory.