WASHINGTON -- U.S. factories fired up again in September, with the manufacturing sector growing for the first time in three months, the Institute for Supply Management said Monday.
The private group's purchasing manager's index for the sector rose to 51.5 last month, indicating an expansion. The index had shown a slight contraction since June, and August's reading of 49.6 was the lowest since mid-2009.
The manufacturing data were a positive sign for the September jobs report, scheduled to be released on Friday.
New factory jobs have been an important part of the U.S. economic recovery. A drop of 15,000 manufacturing positions in August contributed to that month's lackluster jobs report.
"Summer's over and the economy is back working again," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist for Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in New York.
"And it's a good thing too because we were getting a little worried about manufacturing given the worldwide slowdown in exports and outright decline of industrial production in August," he said.
But another key sector showed a drop-off in August. Construction spending was down 0.6% from the previous month, the Commerce Department said Monday.
Still, the news was not all bad on that front.
In another positive sign for the housing sector, residential construction was up 0.9% from July. But non-residential construction dropped 1.3%, and government construction was down 0.8%.