A gauge of manufacturing in New York State climbed in February to its highest level in eight months, helped by a rise in inventories, the New York Federal Reserve said in a report on Tuesday.

The New York Fed's Empire State general business conditions index increased to 15.43 in February, the best since June and up from 11.92 in January.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected a figure of 15.00.

The inventories index rose to 9.64 this month from 4.21 in January and was the highest since April. New orders and shipments, however, both fell from the previous month.

Employment gauges were mixed. The index for the number of employees fell to 3.61 in February from 8.42 in January, but the average employee workweek index rose to 6.02 from 2.11.

The prices paid index jumped to 45.78, the highest since August 2008, from 35.79 last month.

The index of business conditions six months ahead fell to 49.40 in February from 58.95 in January.

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

(Reporting by Wanfeng Zhou; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)