WASHINGTON – U.S. manufacturing activity expanded more quickly last month as companies received more orders and boosted their stockpiles. But a measure of production fell to its lowest level in nearly five years, likely a casualty of severe winter weather.
The Institute for Supply Management, a group of purchasing managers, says its manufacturing index rose to 53.2 in February from 51.3 in January. The increase only partly reversed a five-point drop in January from December.
Still, any reading above 50 signals growth. A gauge of employment was unchanged, suggesting that factories kept their workforces flat.
The report coincided with data showing that China's manufacturing weakened in February and employers cut staff at the fastest rate in nearly five years. It was further evidence that growth in the world's second-largest economy is cooling.