By John S. McClenahen After a falling below the growth/no-growth mark of 50% in January, the Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) business activity index for mining, retail trade, and other non-manufacturers rose to 58.7% in February 2002. That's 9.1 percentage points higher than the 49.6% recorded in January. "This . . . is the strongest business activity index since 59.5% was recorded in November 2000," notes Ralph G. Kauffman, the chairperson of ISM's non-manufacturing business survey committee and coordinator of the purchasing and supply management program at the University of Houston-Downtown. "February's index is a large increase over the November-January range," and, he suggests, "may represent a breakout of the non-manufacturing economy into continued growth in the coming months." Tempe, Ariz.-based ISM's latest report on non-manufacturing business activity comes less than a week after its manufacturing index was released. That index was 54.7% in February, indicating that after 18 months of decline U.S. manufacturing was growing again.