The seasonally adjusted Milwaukee Report on Business rose to 57.8 in December from 56.7 in November, according to the Institute for Supply Management-Milwaukee.

New orders received slid to 62.5 from 66.2, production gained to 61.4 from 60.8, employment rose to 64.3 from 60.4, supplier deliveries grew to 50.7 from 47.8, and backlog of orders fell to 40.7 from 44.6.

Inventory levels climbed to 49.9 from 48.2, customers’ inventories rose to 33.9 from 29.6, prices remained 51.8, exports increased to 50.0 from 46.3 and imports slipped to 46.3 from 51.9.

The blue collar diffusion index grew to 64.3 from 56.8, while the white collar diffusion index rose to 60.5 from 58.6.

Respondents’ comments included:

“Overall pace of the economy, commodities & cost drivers is slow and without dramatic swings.”

“Even though we have growth, we’ve kept blue collar the same through automation.”

“Finally adding some staff after 26% reduction during 2009 crisis.”

“Expect consistent and slight demand increase Q1-Q2 2012 over 2011.”

“Regarding supplier deliveries, almost all trying to ship what they can during calendar year.”

And one commenter said retirements are lowering employment (blue and white collar).

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