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For the third time in as many months, the manufacturing sector of the economy was expanding in May.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reports the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), which tracks the manufacturing sector, registered 53.1% last month -- up 0.5% from April. A reading above 50% indicates the manufacturing economy is generally expanding; below 50% suggests contraction.

The overall economy, meanwhile, grew for the 84th consecutive month.

Within the PMI, The New Orders slipped 0.1% to 55.7% and the Production Index came in at 52.6%, a decline of 1.6%. The Employment Index was unchanged at 49.2%

Raw materials prices climbed for a third straight month with the Prices Index registering 63.5% -- an increase of 4.5% since April.

Industry performance

Of the 18 manufacturing industries, the following 12 reported growth:

  1. Wood Products;
  2. Textile Mills;
  3. Printing & Related Support Activities;
  4. Fabricated Metal Products;
  5. Paper Products;
  6. Plastics & Rubber Products;
  7. Computer & Electronic Products;
  8. Miscellaneous Manufacturing;
  9. Electrical Equipment, Appliances & Components;
  10. Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products;
  11. Machinery; and
  12. Primary Metals.

The six industries reporting contraction in May were:

  1. Apparel, Leather & Allied Products;
  2. Petroleum & Coal Products;
  3. Transportation Equipment;
  4. Nonmetallic Mineral Products;
  5. Chemical Products; and
  6. Furniture & Related Products.
Photo (c) Marzky Ragsac Jr. - Fotolia

Jobless claims

In a separate report, the Department of Labor (DOL) says initial applications for state unemployment benefits were down again last week.

Seasonally adjusted initial claims dropped by 1,000 in the week ending May 28 from the previous week to 267,000. That makes 65 consecutive weeks of initial claims below 300,000 -- the longest streak since 1973.

The four-week moving average, seen by economists as a more accurate barometer of the labor market because it's not as volatile as the weekly compilation, was 276,750 -- down 1,750 from the previous week's unrevised average.

The full report is available on the DOL website.

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