The U.S. manufacturing sector contracted for the 13th straight month in February, but at a slower pace than expected, according to the Institute for Supply Management. The ISM's manufacturing index actually rose to 35.8 from 35.6 in January.
The index has fallen steadily since August as the economy has deteriorated, hitting a 28-year low of 32.9 in December.
"Survey respondents appear generally pessimistic about recovery in 2009," said Norbert Ore, chairman of the group's survey committee. "Some express hope that the stimulus package will help their industry."
The new report showed manufacturers cutting jobs at a rapid pace while new orders fell. The employment index fell to 26.1 in February, a new record low, from 29.9 the previous month. New orders dipped to 33.1 from 33.2.
The production index increased for the second straight month, to 36.3, from 32.1 in January. None of the 18 industries covered by the survey — including wood products, primary metals, electrical equipment, transportation equipment, and machinery — reported growth.
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