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Economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector increased at a strong pace during September.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reports that the NMI, a gauge of activity in the services sector, came in at 57.1% last month -- up 5.7% from August, showing growth for the 80th consecutive month.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion, while below that suggests contraction.

The index measuring new orders was up 8.6% to 60%, the Employment Index rose 6.5% to 57.2%, and the Prices Index edged up 2.2% to 54%, the sixth increase in prices in as many months.

The nation's purchasing and supply executives, while mostly positive about business conditions and the overall economy, note that a degree of uncertainty does exist due to geopolitical conditions coupled with the upcoming presidential election.

How they performed

The 14 non-manufacturing industries reporting growth in September were:

  1. Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting;
  2. Utilities;
  3. Retail Trade;
  4. Management of Companies & Support Services;
  5. Information;
  6. Health Care & Social Assistance;
  7. Transportation & Warehousing;
  8. Finance & Insurance;
  9. Construction;
  10. Other Services;
  11. Wholesale Trade;
  12. Public Administration;
  13. Accommodation & Food Services; and
  14. Professional, Scientific & Technical Services.

Four industries reported contraction in September:

  1. Mining;
  2. Real Estate, Rental & Leasing;
  3. Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; and
  4. Educational Services.
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Jobless claims

The number of workers filing first-time applications for unemployment benefits has fallen below the 250,000 mark.

The Department of Labor (DOL) reports initial jobless claims totaled a seasonally adjusted 249,000 in the week ending October 1, a drop of 5,000 from the previous week's unrevised level.

The four-week moving average was 253,500, a decrease of 2,500 from the previous week. That's the lowest level since December 8, 1973, and marks 83 straight weeks of claims below 300,000 -- the longest streak since 1970. This measure is considered a more accurate gauge of the labor market since it lacks the volatility found in the weekly tally. There were no special factors impacting this week's initial claims.

The complete report is available on the DOL website.

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