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October 2017 Federal Reserve Board's Beige Book

DISCLAIMER: Below are excerpts from the Federal Reserve Board's Beige Book published on October 18, 2017. It "... was prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis based on information collected on or before October 6, 2017. This document summarizes comments received from contacts outside the Federal Reserve System and is not a commentary on the views of Federal Reserve officials."

The excepts were chosen for their relevancy to the recruitment, staffing, employment services, and IT services sectors. The inclusion or exclusion of any sections or wording, the inclusion of each District's service areas (note that sections of some states are divided and end up in more than Fed District), as well as emphasizing certain sections with special typefaces (e.g. bold-faced) was done solely at the discretion of steinbergemploymentresearch.com. The full report can be found at the Federal Reserve Board.

The next Beige Book is scheduled to be released on November 29, 2017, at which time we will offer our next summation. If you want to receive notification when it is posted, please fill-in the form above.

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First District -- Boston Fifth District -- Richmond Ninth District -- Minneapolis
Second District -- New York Sixth District -- Atlanta Tenth District -- Kansas City
Third District -- Philadelphia Seventh District -- Chicago Eleventh District -- Dallas
Fourth District -- Cleveland Eight District -- St. Louis Twelfth District -- San Francisco



First District  --  Boston (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI & VT)  return to District list

Most business contacts in the First District reported modest to moderate year-over-year revenue increases in recent weeks. Both retailers and manufacturers cited sales and revenue improvements and most software and information technology services firms reported strong results. ... Most firms said they were doing only modest net hiring, although some raised wages. Manufacturing firms mentioned price increases somewhat more often than in the recent past. Firms in the District retained a positive outlook.

Employment and Wages

Most First District business contacts reported little change in regional labor markets. Some retailers reported that they have raised their wage offers somewhat in order to attract new hires. All manufacturing contacts said that employment grew in line with expectations; in most cases, that meant that employment did not grow by much. A tech contact selling online backup solutions was aggressively hiring. Other software and IT services contacts were hiring in the low single-digit percentages; all noted the labor market for technical positions remained tight globally, and particularly in New England.


Manufacturing and Related Services

Based on an unusually low number of respondents this round, 60 percent of manufacturing firms reported higher sales in line with expectations. One contact reported a decline driven mostly by disruptions in its chemical business due to the hurricanes; specifically, a plant delivering a key input was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey and the firm temporarily shifted its sourcing to costlier South American sources. A toy manufacturer also reported some hurricane-related problems related to plastic supply. Neither firm expected any long-term effects from the Hurricane. A company that produces packaging used by Internet retailers reported strong sales growth although lower than in comparable periods in recent years. None of our contacts reported any revisions to their capital expenditure plans.

All responding firms reported a positive outlook with only small revisions from previous rounds. A toy manufacturing contact said they were less optimistic than when they last spoke to us, but still optimistic.

Software and Information Technology Services

Software and IT services respondents serving the healthcare and health devices industries continued to thrive in New England. A healthcare IT firm converted strong demand for new browser-based offerings into 17 percent revenue growth year-over-year. Firms providing IT for manufacturing and online backup experienced low- to mid-teen revenue growth year-over-year. Demand from manufacturing and business customers continued to firm in this quarter. An enterprise software contact continued to struggle, with revenues down 5 percent year-over-year; however, the contact maintained that their market was healthy and demand was steady--their struggles were largely internal.

All contacts were optimistic about the future. The only potentially negative factor was uncertainty surrounding the health care landscape in Washington.

Second District  --  New York (CT, NJ & NY)  return to District list

Economic activity in the Second District continued to expand at a moderate pace in the latest reporting period, and labor markets have remained steady and tight. ... Manufacturers reported continued brisk growth in activity, and businesses engaged in wholesale trade and information noted a pickup in activity since the last report. However, contacts in professional & business services and health & education services generally characterized business activity as flat. ...

Employment and Wages

The labor market has remained tight. One major employment agency in New York City and another in upstate New York both described the job market as tight but steady, with only modest upward pressure on wages in most industries. Businesses continued to report difficulty finding qualified workers.

Business contacts in manufacturing and in most service-sector industries reported that they have added jobs on net, though to a modest degree. Similarly, hiring plans for the months ahead are subdued but positive, on net.

Overall, wages have continued to rise at a modest pace, though contacts in education & health, leisure & hospitality, and real estate report somewhat more widespread wage hikes.

Manufacturing and Distribution

Manufacturers reported continued brisk growth in business activity in recent weeks. Contacts in the wholesale trade sector noted a pickup in growth, while those in the transportation industry continued to report modest growth. Looking ahead, manufacturers and wholesalers remained broadly optimistic about the near-term outlook, while transportation firms have grown considerably less optimistic.


Service-sector firms generally reported sluggish growth. Contacts in both professional & business services and education & health services noted that activity was flat, on balance, while firms in the information and leisure & hospitality industries noted a pickup in growth. Service sector businesses remained mildly optimistic about the near-term outlook, except in the professional & business services industry, where contacts were considerably less upbeat than in recent months. ...

Third District  --  Philadelphia (DE, PA & NJ)  return to District list

Aggregate business activity in the Third District continued at a modest pace of growth during the current Beige Book period. Manufacturing, nonfinancial services, new home sales, and tourism grew modestly; nonresidential construction and leasing appeared to grow slightly; and nonauto retail sales and new home construction activity exhibited little change. ... On balance, wages and prices continued to grow at a modest pace, but employment flattened out. Overall, firms appear to anticipate continued modest growth over the next six months, with a larger percentage of firms expecting growth.

Employment and Wages

Employment changed little during the Beige Book period, slowing from a modest pace of growth in the prior period. Reports of net additions to staff were subdued for both manufacturing and nonmanufacturing firms, and most contacts reported no change in staff levels. Average hours worked decreased over the period for manufacturing firms but held steady among nonmanufacturers.

On balance, wage growth held steady at a modest pace. Staffing firms and other contacts generally reported steady wage growth and tight labor markets in certain areas and for certain occupations. One staffing firm noted strong order activity and a need to act quickly to fill positions.


On balance, manufacturing activity continued at a modest pace of growth and showed signs of improvement. Higher percentages of firms reported increases in new orders and shipments compared with the prior period. ...

Generally, manufacturing contacts continued to expect growth over the next six months. The percentage of firms expecting future increases for general activity rose, while it held mostly steady for future increases in capital expenditures and employment.

Nonfinancial Services


Service-sector firms continued to report modest growth in general activity since the prior Beige Book period, and new orders and sales strengthened further, on balance. One large service-sector firm noted continued improvement in the payment performance of its customers. Expectations about future growth remained elevated, with nearly 60 percent of the firms anticipating increased activity.


Fourth District  --  Cleveland (KY, OH, PA & WV)  return to District list


Economic activity in the Fourth District expanded at a moderate pace since our last report. Labor markets expanded broadly, with employers looking for low- and high-skilled workers. Wage pressures were felt primarily in the construction and nonfinancial services industries. Upward pressure on prices paid increased across industry sectors; however, producers and service providers found it challenging to raise selling prices. ... Manufacturing output grew at a modest pace overall, but production at District motor vehicle assembly plants trended lower.

Employment and Wages


The past two months saw a boost in hiring across all reporting industries, with the strongest activity seen in construction, banking, and nonfinancial services. Many of our contacts reported creating new jobs during the current cycle, and a majority said that they have replaced departed workers. Greatest demand was for high-skilled workers, such as engineers and those in the building trades, and for low-skilled workers. Demand for the latter group was attributed to difficulties in retaining employees. A building contractor reported that his firm recently hired 15 newly graduated engineers and has openings for 10 additional entry-level engineers, but the firm has difficulty attracting qualified candidates. A chamber of commerce executive said that in order to avoid employee turnover, firms are incentivizing workers with bonuses and higher wages. This strategy has resulted in narrowing the wage gap between low- and middle-wage workers, drawing criticism from middle-wage workers. Competitive market conditions were cited as the primary factor for increasing wages, particularly in the construction and nonfinancial services sectors.


Activity in the manufacturing sector picked up from that of the previous reporting period; however, the overall pace of growth was modest. Several of our contacts cited confidence in the economy on the part of customers as the primary contributor to a rise in new orders. Other factors cited as contributing to the expansion in output include a strong housing market and strengthening in the oil and gas and primary materials industries. ... The pickup in spending for structures and product development that began in the second quarter has weakened. However, contacts reported increased spending on IT equipment and services. Many manufacturers remain bullish in their outlook for the economy.

Nonfinancial Services

... Professional and business services firms reported moderate gains in activity during the period. Strongest demand was seen by management consulting and IT services firms. A majority of our contacts reported that their customers are bullish on the economy and as a result are willing to invest more in technology.


Fifth District  --  Richmond (MD, NC, SC, VA & WV)  return to District list


The Fifth District economy grew at a moderate pace since our previous report, with some respondents attributing increased activity to the recent hurricanes. Manufacturing firms continued to report moderate growth in new orders and shipments. ... Services firms generally indicated moderate revenue growth. Labor demand strengthened moderately and wage pressures broadened. ...

Employment and Wages

Labor demand continued to strengthen moderately in recent weeks and labor markets remained tight. Although employment agencies reported a slight increase in new job openings, that increase was lower than expected going in to the fall recruiting season. They continue to anticipate an increase in openings in coming months. Wage increases remained modest, but more contacts noted increased wage pressures. Executives reported difficulty finding qualified machinists and machine operators, engineers, construction workers and contractors, executive assistants, mechanics, and nurses. Trucking companies continued to struggle finding drivers, despite an increase in drivers' wages across the industry.


On balance, manufacturing firms reported moderate growth in new orders and shipments in recent weeks. Medical equipment producers and furniture manufacturers noted a recent pickup in new orders, while metal manufacturers continued to see improved business conditions. Additionally, a packaging manufacturer reported increased shipments with the opening of its new fulfillment center. ...

Non-Financial Services

Services firms indicated moderate revenue growth, according to our most recent surveys, and remained optimistic for demand to improve further over the next six months. The strongest reports came from construction related services, including civil engineering, home repair, maintenance, and contractor services. Telecommunication services, amusement facilities, and performing arts studios also indicated a pickup in business in recent weeks. A marketing firm in Virginia reported an extension to an existing contract but a lot of competition for new business. Health care service providers were less upbeat and one hospital system administrator expressed concerns over rising insurance costs.


Sixth District  --  Atlanta (AL, FL, GA, LA, MS & TN)  return to District list

Aside from hurricane effects, Sixth District business contacts described economic conditions as improving at a modest pace from mid-August through September. The outlook among firms remained optimistic with the majority of contacts expecting growth to be slightly above current levels for the remainder of the year. Most firms continued to cite labor market tightness, but with few reports of wage pressures. ...Hospitality, energy, and agriculture contacts reported that activity was greatly affected by Hurricane Irma. ... Manufacturers indicated that new orders and production increased. ...

Employment and Wages

District business contacts reported that job growth was steady since the previous report, though challenges filling construction, information technology, finance, transportation, and nursing positions persisted. Energy sector contacts experienced ongoing difficulties filling skilled craft positions. Firms continued to develop and utilize internal and external training programs to help produce qualified workers. Commercial and residential construction industry contacts further indicated that labor shortages were restraining growth. Businesses continued to engage in partnerships with the educational and workforce development community to fill specific industry or individual firms' skill gaps. Broadly, businesses continued to use non-wage mechanisms to attract and retain workers. While it is early to gauge the impact of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma on southeastern labor markets, some contacts expect the hospitality, retail, and construction industries to be the most impacted, particularly in Florida and Louisiana.

Wage growth remained steady, with the exception of continued wage pressures for some high-skilled positions and increased reports of rising wages in the construction industry. Business plans for future compensation, on balance, continued to be reported as modest for the coming year.


Manufacturing contacts indicated that the pace of overall activity increased since the last report. Purchasing managers noted a rise in new orders and production levels, as well as an increase in the pace of hiring. Supplier delivery times were reported as getting longer and finished inventory levels increased somewhat. The overall outlook was relatively unchanged from the previous report, with close to half of firms surveyed expecting higher production over the next six months.


Seventh District  --  Chicago (IA, IL, IN, MI & WI)  return to District list

Growth in economic activity in the Seventh District continued at a modest rate in late August and September, and contacts expected growth to continue at that pace over the next 6 to 12 months. Employment, business spending, and manufacturing increased modestly, while consumer spending increased slightly. ... Wages and prices rose modestly. ...

Employment and Wages

Employment growth continued at a modest rate over the reporting period, and contacts expected it to continue at that pace over the next 6 to 12 months. Contacts continued to indicate that the labor market was tight and reported difficulty filling positions at all skill levels. A contact in the construction industry indicated that increased demand in the southern US related to hurricanes Harvey and Irma had forced them to rework their production schedule due to a lack of workers. Across all industries, hiring was primarily focused on professional and technical, sales, and production workers, with a notable increase in the number of contacts looking to hire production workers. That said, a staffing firm that primarily supplies manufacturers with production workers reported little change in billable hours. Wage growth remained modest overall. Contacts most often cited wage increases for professional and technical, sales, and production workers, but there were also reports that growing demand for transportation services was pushing up wages for truckers.

Business Spending

Growth in business spending remained at modest pace in late August and September. In general, retail inventories were at desired levels, though stocks remained high for cars and low for light trucks, particularly crossovers. Manufacturing inventories were at comfortable levels overall, though steel service center inventories were lower than historical norms. Growth in capital spending remained at a modest rate, and contacts expected growth to continue at that pace for the next 6 to 12 months. Outlays were primarily for replacing industrial and IT equipment and for renovating structures, though there was an increase in the number of contacts reporting spending for expansion. Demand for residential, commercial, and industrial electricity was flat.


Growth in manufacturing production generally continued at a modest pace in late August and September. Growth did pick up for some industries: Improved international conditions led to solid gains for heavy machinery producers; hurricanes Harvey and Irma boosted sales of construction materials and RVs (FEMA trailers are modified RVs); and heavy truck manufacturers and producers of packing materials reported strong increases in demand. Contacts in most other industries reported little change in conditions. ...


Eighth District  --  St. Louis (AR, KY, IL, IN, MO, MS & TN)  return to District list

Reports from contacts suggest economic conditions have continued to improve at a modest pace since our previous report. Labor markets remain tight, with positions remaining unfilled; employment was little changed. Contacts report moderate growth in wages, while broader price pressures remain modest. ... The District continues to see relatively stronger growth in both the manufacturing and banking sectors, although growth in both sectors has decelerated somewhat since the beginning of the year.


Employment and Wages

Anecdotal evidence suggests little change in employment since the previous report. Contacts continued to report difficulties finding experienced or qualified employees. A construction contact in Little Rock noted that high levels of real estate activity have created a shortage of skilled workers, and a transportation contact reported that the shortage of truck drivers worsened. Several contacts reported that potential employees' lack of transportation to and from work has posed a challenge to hiring.

Contacts have reported moderate growth in wages since the previous report. A contact in Little Rock reported increasing compensation as part of an effort to retain staff, while another contact reported moderate increases for both hourly and salaried employees throughout the area.


Manufacturing activity has increased moderately since our previous report. Manufacturing production, inventories, and employment growth were all stronger than one month earlier in both Arkansas and Missouri. However, new manufacturing orders grew at a slower rate in both states. ...

Nonfinancial Services


The nonfinancial services sector has expanded at a modest pace since the previous report. Firms that provide transportation and logistics services are reporting plans to increase employment and renovate existing structures. Demand for commercial trucking from firms headquartered in the District is up from Hurricane Harvey relief efforts and expected to remain elevated during rebuilding efforts. Several firms that provide professional business and information services are reporting plans to expand and increase employment. Reports from healthcare firms remain mixed. Employers continue to streamline operations in an uncertain environment, with one major employer shifting jobs from low-profit to high-profit areas.

Ninth District  --  Minneapolis (MI, MN, MT, ND, SD & WI)  return to District list

The Ninth District economy grew modestly since the last report. Employment fell since the last report, but hiring demand remained strong, held back by tight labor markets. Wage pressures were moderate, while price pressures were modest overall. The District economy showed growth in services, manufacturing, commercial real estate, residential construction, and energy. ...

Employment and Wages

Employment fell since the last report, but hiring demand remained strong, held back by tight labor markets. Seasonally adjusted August employment levels fell across the District, continuing an up-and-down pattern in recent months. However, a staffing contact in southeastern Minnesota said hiring "is still robust. I have no issue getting clients. If I had 100 people, I could put them all to work." A Minnesota labor contact said worker demand in hospitality was "stronger than usual going into the winter season" for both union and nonunion businesses. A large Minnesota entertainment and hospitality firm said it had 150 job openings on a steady basis at two locations. A Montana source said booth registrations at recent career fairs were up 7 percent, "indicating more employers are looking to hire." Two September business conditions indexes showed strong hiring sentiment in Minnesota and North Dakota, but some softness in South Dakota. In Montana, the number of job seekers visiting state workforce centers in September fell compared with August figures, while the number of open job positions grew. A September survey of South Dakota retailers by the Minneapolis Fed found that more than half were hiring, but most often to fill turnover. Contacts in hospitality and construction also noted an increase in overtime for workers.

Wages rose moderately since the last report, with some mixed signals, but overall showing signs of strengthening. A staffing contact said one client has raised starting wages three times since June. A South Dakota construction contact estimated wage increases of 3 percent to 5 percent over last year and expected similar increases in the coming year. A Minnesota labor union source in the services industry reported increases of 3 percent "in most of our units." In a survey by the Minneapolis Fed, 40 percent of South Dakota retailers reported wages rising between 1 percent and 3 percent over the past year, but with equal percentages above and below those levels. Said a Minnesota workforce contact, "I get very mixed signals. I hear that wages are going up, but when I press, I still see a lot of wage increases in the 2 percent to 3 percent range."


Activity in the professional services industry increased moderately since the last report. A biotech firm broke ground on a large research facility in Minnesota. A consultant noted a growing backlog of work related to merger and acquisition activity in the second half of the year. ...



District manufacturing activity increased moderately since the last report. An index of manufacturing conditions produced by Creighton University indicated increased activity in September compared with a month earlier in Minnesota and North Dakota; the index for South Dakota indicated a slight decrease in activity. Several firms noted an increase in demand for equipment related to oil and gas extraction. A lubrication equipment producer reported an increase in orders from the military. A producer of hydraulic cylinders said sales were up over last year and current orders were solid.


Tenth District  --  Kansas City (CO, NM, MO, NE, OK & WY)  return to District list

Economic activity in the Tenth District continued to increase at a modest pace in September, and contacts in most sectors expected gains in the coming months. Retail, restaurant, and tourism activity picked up since the last survey, but auto sales fell modestly. The manufacturing sector continued to increase moderately, and capital spending plans were positive. Contacts in the transportation and wholesale trade sectors noted a strong increase in sales, while professional and high-tech firms reported a modest rise in overall activity. ...

Employment and Wages

District employment and employee hours continued to rise at a slight pace in September, and contacts expected additional improvement in the months ahead. Respondents in the manufacturing, energy, wholesale trade, professional services, real estate, health services and restaurant sectors noted an increase in both employment and employee hours compared to the previous survey period, while respondents in the retail trade, auto sales, and tourism and hospitality sectors noted a decrease. Expectations for employment remained positive in all sectors except the auto sales and tourism sectors. The majority of respondents noted it was difficult to find qualified workers, and several contacts noted a shortage of commercial drivers, salespeople, and services workers.

Wages rose modestly in most sectors, and moderate wage growth was anticipated in the coming months.

Manufacturing and Other Business Activity

Manufacturing activity continued to expand at a moderate pace in September, and the majority of other business contacts reported moderate sales increases. Manufacturers reported sustained moderate growth in production and shipments, particularly for chemicals, plastics, and machinery products. New orders and order backlogs grew at a modest pace, and activity was considerably higher than a year ago. Manufacturers' capital spending plans remained favorable, and firms were increasingly optimistic about future activity.

Outside of manufacturing, transportation and wholesale trade firms reported strong sales increases, while professional and high tech firms noted a more modest rise in activity. All firms expected sales to rise considerably in the next six months. Professional, high-tech, and wholesale trade firms reported strong capital spending plans, while transportation firms anticipated a slight decrease in capital expenditures heading forward.

Eleventh District  --  Dallas (LA, NM & TX)  return to District list

The Eleventh District economy continued to expand at a moderate pace over the past six weeks, and most contacts do not expect significant long-term disruption due to Hurricane Harvey. Manufacturing output strengthened, and activity in nonfinancial services increased. ... Employment, wages and prices increased, particularly in manufacturing. Outlooks remained positive overall.

Employment and Wages

Overall employment rose, and upward wage pressure persisted. Hiring picked up in manufacturing, continued at about the same modest pace in services, and abated slightly in the energy sector. Reports of labor shortages persisted, spanning most industries. Some manufacturers said the difficulty finding workers was impeding their growth, and some services firms said it was driving up overtime costs. More than a quarter of firms expect that the impact of Hurricane Harvey will make finding and hiring workers more difficult over the next six months. In construction, builders were concerned that once post-hurricane repair and rebuilding work begins, there likely will be skilled-worker shortages and increases in labor costs. Other contacts noted that they also pull from a labor pool that is likely to be in higher demand in the aftermath of the storm.



Robust expansion in the manufacturing sector continued, despite some disruption among Texas Gulf Coast producers in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Output growth picked up further for durable goods in September, led by increases in computer and electronic product manufacturing. Fabricated metals production rebounded, and output among energy-related firms overall continued to exhibit strength. Meanwhile, nondurable goods production slowed. A majority of chemical producers noted production held steady or declined over the reporting period, with a number of executives saying Hurricane Harvey had a negative impact on logistics like transportation and availability of raw materials. Refinery capacity hampered by the storm was ramping back up quickly, with little damage to infrastructure. While it may take some time for supply chains to recover, the storm's impact on the refining and petrochemical industry are projected to be transitory. For Texas manufacturing overall, outlooks were positive and more optimistic than during the prior reporting period.


Nonfinancial Services

Demand for nonfinancial services continued to expand moderately over the past six weeks. There were some reports of Hurricane Harvey disrupting business, with those contacts noting the impact lasted one to two weeks on average. About a third of firms expect a net negative impact on revenues over the next six months from the storm, while nearly half expect no change on net and the balance anticipate an increase. Some staffing services contacts have seen a rise in demand for accounting and data entry positions related to the hurricane damages, as well as for call center employees and insurance adjusters. Staffing contacts generally think business activity will return to normal (pre-hurricane) by year's end, and an oil and gas staffing firm noted that "things are close to normal again" in Houston already.

Strength in the nonfinancial services sector was led by professional and technical services, with firms generally noting stronger revenue gains over the past six weeks, as well as transportation services. The healthcare industry remained rather weak, with contacts saying they were continuing to struggle with lower demand and rising costs. Leisure and hospitality also exhibited weakness over the past six weeks, particularly along the Gulf Coast and Mexican border.


Twelfth District  --  San Francisco (AK, AZ, CA, HI, ID, NV, OR, UT, & WA)  return to District list

Economic activity in the Twelfth District continued to expand at a moderate pace during the reporting period of mid-August through September. Overall price inflation was flat and remained low, while upward wage pressures strengthened somewhat, and labor market conditions tightened further. Sales of retail goods picked up, and growth in consumer and business services remained strong. Conditions in the manufacturing sector improved, while activity in the agriculture sector was flat. Contacts reported continued strong activity in residential real estate markets, and conditions in the commercial real estate sector remained solid. Lending activity grew at a moderate pace.


Employment and Wages

Conditions in the labor market tightened further. Wage gains increased in a few sectors. Increased competition for warehouse employees in the retail industry boosted wages. One contact at a major logistics and delivery company noted rising demand for manual labor, with these jobs increasingly being filled by workers wanting to supplement their income with additional part-time hours. Continued elevated demand for skilled IT professionals in the technology, financial services, and health-care industries supported strong wage growth. Shortages of health-care workers in Eastern Washington worsened. Labor shortages and increased unit labor costs in the agriculture sector fueled investments in automated technology. In the retail grocery industry, the continued shift of consumer preferences towards online purchases further reduced labor demand.




On balance, conditions in the manufacturing sector continued to improve. Production of semiconductors reached a 10-year high, driven primarily by demand for memory chips. Electricity usage by manufacturers in Eastern Washington picked up further. Deliveries of commercial aircraft dipped slightly, but new orders were up notably over the same period last year. Contacts expect strong overall demand for steel over the next few months as construction efforts in other parts of the country ramp up following recent hurricanes. Demand for manufactured steel products slowed from its moderate pace in the first half of the year as orders from automobile manufacturers waned somewhat.



2017, Bruce Steinberg.  All rights reserved.

last updated October 18, 2017