WASHINGTON (AFP) – United States manufacturing activity rebounded in June from a contraction in May, but remained lackluster, according to a closely watched report released Monday.
The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its purchasing managers index for manufacturing rose to 50.9 in June, up 1.9 points from May’s contraction-territory level of 49.
A PMI reading above 50 indicates expansion, while one below reflects contraction.
Of the 18 manufacturing industries surveyed, 12 reported growth.
“Comments from the panel generally indicate slow growth and improving business conditions,” said Bradley Holcomb, chair of the survey committee.
Manufacturing grew for all but one month in the first half of 2013, according to ISM data.
The June rebound was stronger than the 50.5 reading expected by analysts but at just above 50 indicated continuing weakness in the manufacturing sector, which has been bleeding jobs amid a feeble economic recovery.
“The manufacturing sector is recording such modest growth that surveys cannot tell the difference from stagnation,” said Michael Montgomery of IHS Global Insight.
The PMI index on new orders jumped by 3.1 percentage points to 51.9, and the production index surged 4.8 points to 53.4.
But in a grim look at manufacturing job prospects, the employment index contracted for the first time since September 2009, by 1.4 points to 48.7.
“Slow growth continues to choke the recovery. We are not out of the woods yet by any stretch of the imagination,” a chemicals industry representative told ISM.