September marked the fourth straight month of decline in economic activity in the manufacturing sector, according to a monthly report issued by the National Assn. of Purchasing Management (NAPM). However, the overall economy continued to grow for the 89th consecutive month. The latest Manufacturing NAPM Report On Business based its findings on the Purchasing Managers' Index for September, which stood at 49.4%. The same index was recorded for August. A reading below 50% indicates a generally contracting economy. "The overall picture in September is one of negligible decline in manufacturing activity," says Norbert J. Ore, NAPM chair. Manufacturing growth in new orders and production in September was offset by declines in employment, prices, and exports, and an increase in imports. "Members major concerns continue to focus on Asia and its effect on the economy," Ore says. "On the plus side, domestic construction, ramp up of [General Motors], strength in employment in some sectors, and interest rates are favorable to the manufacturing economy." Of the 20 industries in the manufacturing sector, seven reported improved business in September over August. Those were wood and wood products; printing and publishing; electronic components and equipment; food; petroleum; transportation and equipment; and glass, stone, and aggregate.