Compiled ByJill Jusko The bad news is economic activity in the manufacturing sector declined for the 16th consecutive month in November. The good news is the contraction is slowing, reports the National Assn. of Purchasing Management in its latest Manufacturing NAPM Report on Business. Equally positive, the overall economy returned to growth following a significant decline in October, data show. "The manufacturing sector showed surprising resilience in November," says Norbert J. Ore, chair of NAPM's Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. "The trend is definitely in the right direction, but it is too soon to claim an imminent recovery. Based on this report, the sector regained a significant portion of the output lost in October." NAPM's index of business activity, the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), reached 44.5% in November, up 4.7 percentage points from the 39.8% reported in October. A reading above 50% indicates that the manufacturing sector generally is expanding; below 50% indicates it generally is contracting. A PMI above 42.7% over a period of time generally indicates an expansion in the overall economy. On the positive side for manufacturing, NAPM's New Orders Index rose a significant 10.5 percentage points from 38.3% to 48.8% in October. Five industries reported increases in new orders in November: apparel; instruments and photographic equipment; food; furniture; and miscellaneous. Additionally, the Production Index rose 6.2 percentage points to 47.1% in November, and five industries reported growth: tobacco; food; apparel; instruments and photographic equipment; and glass, stone and aggregate. However the Backlog of Orders Index failed to grow for the 19th consecutive month in November, the Manufacturing Employment Index fell below 50% for the 14th consecutive month, and manufacturers continued to receive lower prices for the ninth consecutive month.