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Business sluggish at area manufacturers Slowed production growth offsets jump in hiring

Business at the Buffalo Niagara region's manufacturers grew more slowly for the fourth straight month during October, a local purchasing managers group said Thursday.

The decline showed that business activity at local manufacturers was growing at its slowest pace since January, although the purchasing managers survey also showed that the expansion that began in July 2003 continues uninterrupted.

"The local economy continues to expand at a steady rate," said Arthur D. Aramino, the chairman of the National Association of Purchasing Management -- Buffalo's business survey committee.

A continued slowing in the growth of production at local factories was a main reason for slower growth during October, offsetting a jump in hiring at local factories, the purchasing managers said.

That caused the group's business activity index, which provides an early glimpse at how manufacturers are faring, to slip to 57.3 last month, down from 59.2 during September. Any reading above 50 indicates growth; a reading below 50 indicates a declining economy.

Nationally, manufacturing grew in October at the weakest pace since March, suggesting that ongoing troubles in the housing and credit markets have seeped into the industrial sector. The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index slipped to 50.9, down from 52 in September and its lowest reading since last March.

Locally, the slowdown in growth was partly due to a continued decline in production at local factories, where 29 percent of the managers surveyed said output at their plants had declined, up from 14 percent in September. That pushed the group's production index down for the third straight month to 54.8 from 61.9 in September.

The flow of new orders was virtually flat, with the group's new order index slipping to 59.5 last month from 56.6 in September, as a spike in the number of managers reporting a jump in orders being offset by an equally-large increase in the percentage of managers reporting a drop in orders.

Hiring picked up at local manufacturers, which Aramino said could reflect the increase in new orders that occurred in September. The group's employment index rose to 66.7 last month from 59.6 in September, as 43 percent of the firms added workers, up from 29 percent in September.

Inventories shrunk for the first time in six months, while commodity prices rose at a faster pace for the first time in five months.


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