By John S. McClenahen Like the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy, the non-manufacturing sector continued to expand in February but at a slower pace than in January. The Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) index of business activity for non-manufacturing firms was 53.9% last month, down sixth-tenths of a percentage point from January's 54.5%. "Although the non-manufacturing sector grew more slowly overall in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, purchasing and supply executives report that 10 industry groups grew in February, while only three contracted, and three others reported no change from January," ISM emphasizes. Indeed, with a 53.9% business activity index figure in February, non-manufacturing looks to be a bit stronger than manufacturing, which posted a 50.5% ISM index figure in February. On both indexes, 50% is the dividing line between expansion and contraction.