The Richmond, Va., Federal Reserve Bank said business activity in the Central Atlantic states slowed at a moderate pace in September. Manufacturing in the region \"contracted at a less pronounced rate this month,\" the regional bank said. \"Looking at the main components of activity, employment grew at a slightly quicker rate, while shipments exhibited more moderate weakness,\" the report said. The critical component of new orders for businesses, however, slipped further into negative territory,\" the report said. By the numbers, the composite index rose from minus 10 to minus 6. Shipments rose 15 points to minus 2 and new orders dropped 6 points to minus 17. The employment index, meanwhile, rose from 1 to 7, climbing 6 points. The survey showed respondents more confident about business six months down the road than they indicated in August. The expectations index for new orders and shipments both rose 10 points, both settling at 27. The employment expectations index for hiring slipped 2 points from 5 to 3, while the expectations index for hours worked dropped 2 points from 12 to 10.