The Institute for Supply Management's November purchasing managers index, or PMI, inched nearly one percentage point higher than the October reading, hitting its highest level so far this year.
The PMI, a closely watched measurement of U.S. manufacturing activity, increased from 56.4 percent in October to 57.3 percent in November, marking the sixth consecutive month that the manufacturing sector has expanded.
Among other positive signs, the institute's November new-orders index increased by three percentage points to 63.6, and the production index rose by two percentage points to 62.8. Like the PMI, both indices are riding a six-month growth trajectory.
Meanwhile, the November employment index jumped by 3.3 percentage points to 56.5, reaching its highest mark since April 2012.
"With 15 of 18 manufacturing industries reporting growth in November relative to October, the positive growth trend characterizing the second half of 2013 is continuing," said Bradley Holcomb, chairman of the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing Business Survey Committee.
The ISM data "suggests that U.S. manufacturing is set for a positive finish to a mixed year," remarked Cliff Waldman, senior economist for the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation, in a blog post
. However, Waldman cautioned that the data should be viewed "against the backdrop of a challenging domestic and world business climate."
"ISM respondent comments for November are telling in this regard," Waldman asserted in his blog post. "Some survey respondents noted the strong order rate and good business climate. Others remarked that federal-policy difficulties have been creating business caution and uncertainty. Essentially flat manufacturing output growth in the second quarter of this year with only 1 percent growth in the third quarter testify to the real impact of uncertainty."
The "highly globalized" U.S. manufacturing sector will try to continue its momentum amid competing forces in 2014, Waldman asserted.
"Much improved world financial and economic stability is the key positive for U.S. factories," he said. "But the halting and tepid nature of the recovery in such critical areas as the eurozone and large emerging markets unfortunately means that global improvement is not doing as much as it should for U.S. manufacturing growth and job creation. Further, U.S. federal-policy difficulties continue to suppress capital spending, a key demand driver for the factory sector.
"Modest growth acceleration with a mix of upside and downside risks best describes the outlook for U.S. manufacturing as it ends a challenging year."