After seven months of expansion, manufacturing activity in the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond district “paused” in May, according to the monthly business activity survey.

The index of overall activity was negative as shipments and new orders were down, while employment growth held steady.

“Other indicators suggested additional softness,” the Richmond Fed said. “District contacts reported that capacity utilization turned negative and backlogs fell further, while delivery times grew more slowly. In addition, manufacturers reported an uptick in finished goods inventory growth.”

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