A gauge of manufacturing in New York State continued to grow in May but at a slower pace, although the jobs gauge reached its highest level in about six years, the New York Federal Reserve said in a report on Monday.

The New York Fed's Empire State general business conditions index fell to 19.11 in May from 31.86 in April.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected a May figure of 30.00.

Employment grew for a fifth consecutive month, reaching its highest level since 2004. The number of employees rose to 22.37 from 20.25 in April.

The new orders index fell to 14.30 from 29.49 in April.

The survey of manufacturing plants in the state is one of the earliest monthly guideposts to U.S. factory conditions.

(Reporting by John Parry and Wanfeng Zhou; Editing by Theodore d'Afflisio)