OVERVIEW OF BUSINESS ACTIVITY

1st Quarter, 1996
(January, February, March 1996)


First Quarter, 1996 gross income posted an increase of 4.8 percent over First
Quarter, 1995; this compares to a 2.7 percent decline during Fourth Quarter,
1995.  First Quarter, 1996 gains were largely the result of increases in the
retail trade and service sectors.  The industrial sectors, such as
construction and manufacturing, posted nominal gains from the previous year. 


Within the industrial sectors, contract construction was up 1.4 percent. 
General building contractors reported a 4.4 percent gain and special trade
contractors an 11.8 percent increase; however, an 8.9 percent decline in
heavy construction largely offset these gains.  Manufacturing reported a 1.6
percent increase although most manufacturing industries reported gains.  The
most significant increases were in food products, up 8.1 percent, apparel and
textiles up 9.1 percent, primary metals industries 7.5 percent, and
fabricated metal products 15.2 percent.  However, the two largest gross
income industries in the manufacturing sector, lumber and wood products and
transportation equipment, reported declines of 5.4 percent and 4.1 percent
respectively.

Transportation and allied services reported a 7.8 percent increase.  Within
this sector, a nearly 30 percent decline in gross income for railroads was
offset by a 26 percent increase in motor freight and warehousing.  It
appears, however, that at least some of the decline for railroads and of the
increase reported under motor freight was due to tax rate and reporting
changes recently instituted for railroad companies.  Thus, the overall
transportation sector increase of 7.8 percent is indicative of gross income
growth across the board for most transportation services.  

Both the communication and utilities and the wholesale trade sectors reported
increases of 4.3 percent.  Within the communication and utilities sector,
communication was up 6.6 percent.  The wholesale trade sector, broken down
between durable and nondurable goods, was up 5 percent for durable goods and
3.5 percent for nondurable goods.  A number of industries within the
nondurable goods sector were down, while two industries, petroleum and
petroleum products and farm product raw materials posted significant
increases of 15.1 and 31.4 percent respectively.  

Retail trade posted a respectable 5.9 percent overall gain.  Within retail
trade, general merchandise stores were up 8.3 percent, auto dealers 13.1
percent, and furniture, furnishings and equipment 18.3 percent.  Notable for
their declines were apparel and accessories down 18 percent and appliances
10.4 percent.  Most of the increase in furniture, furnishings and equipment
was driven by a 35.9 percent increase in electronics/music stores.  

The finance, insurance and real estate sector reported a 14 percent gain in
finance and a 13.6 percent increase in insurance.  Real estate was up 6.8
percent, while other finance was down 26 percent.  The overall gain for this
sector was 11.7 percent.  


The services and other business sector continued strong steady growth with an
8.1 percent increase.  Business services reported significant growth with
computer services up 23.6 percent.  Motion picture theaters and production
reported a 33 percent increase.  Any declines in gross income within the
service sector were mostly in the personal services activities, although
legal services also reported a 3.2 percent decline.  

Overall, First Quarter 1996 reported moderate growth after slow gross income
growth in most sectors during Fourth Quarter, 1995.  Any consumer-led
turnabout in retailing growth has yet to be evident, although sales for auto
dealers showed stronger than expected growth.  Marginal manufacturing growth
and strong service industry increases round out the performance of First
Quarter, 1996.  


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