WASHINGTON -- Conditions for manufacturers in New York worsened for a fifth straight month, with new orders and shipments lower, the New York branch of the Federal Reserve said Monday.

The New York Fed's Empire State manufacturing survey fell three points to negative 8.1, "a sign that business activity declined at a modest pace for New York manufacturers in December," the Fed said.

15% of those surveyed said conditions had improved over the month while 23% reported worse conditions than the prior month.

The downturn belied expectations that there would be a rebound in the region by December, after it was hit hard by superstorm Sandy, which largely shut down activity in and around New York City at the end of October and the beginning of November.

"November's weakness was blamed on the big storm. Now it appears the storm was not the only source of weakness as manufacturing in NY state continues to shrink," said Chris Low of FTN Financial.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012