WASHINGTON – U.S. manufacturing expanded in September for the fourth month in a row, pointing to a pick-up in the sector, an industry survey released Tuesday showed.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its purchasing managers index for manufacturing activity rose to 56.2% in September from 55.7% in August.

The PMI index's half point gain in September was led by a 2.1 point month-on-month jump in the employment sub-index.

Production edged up 0.2 point, while new orders fell 2.7 points. All three of the index's sub-components remained in growth territory.

“The September manufacturing report adds to growing evidence that the muted recovery in global economic activity is benefitting U.S. manufacturing growth and helping the factory sector to recover from the shallow output contraction that it suffered in the spring of this year,” said Cliff Waldman, senior economist for the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI).

“While encouraging, recent ISM manufacturing reports have been somewhat overstating the growth in factory sector output” he cautioned. “Output growth data suggest a positive but at best moderate short-term trajectory.  Challenges remain in a global economy still struggling to find its balance in the wake of years of crisis and weakness. Further, domestic policy uncertainty continues to be a decidedly negative influence on business equipment investment, an important demand driver for U.S factories. 

“The outlook for U.S manufacturing remains one of moderate but strengthening activity for the balance of this year and into 2014 and 2015,” Waldman concluded. “Nonetheless, the negative surprises that could still be delivered by an economically and politically complex global picture, as well as a troubled U.S. policy dynamic, should not be discounted.”

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013, IW Staff