By John S. McClenahen Following three consecutive months of slower rates of growth, the Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) manufacturing index rose a percentage point in November to 57.8%. "The manufacturing sector appears poised to end the year on a strong note . . . ," says Norbert J. Ore, chair of ISM's manufacturing business survey committee and group director for strategic sourcing and procurement at Georgia-Pacific Corp. An index figure above 50% indicates that the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy generally is expanding; a figure below 50% suggests that it is contracting. Looking at the index's details, new orders for manufacturers grew faster in November than in October -- as did employment. In fact, ISM's employment index grew for the thirteenth consecutive month, following a 37-month trend of contraction. Production among manufacturers also grew in November, but at a rate 1.9 percentage points lower than in October, according to data released Dec. 1 by Tempe, Ariz.-based ISM. In November, 55% of supply executives surveyed reported paying higher prices for a variety of goods ranging from acetone to steel, while 7% reported lower prices and 38% said prices were unchanged. ISM's data are compiled from monthly surveys of purchasing and supply executives in more than 400 companies.