The overall economy grew for the 82nd straight month, while the manufacturing sector was contracting slightly, the Institute for Supply Management reported yesterday.

According to its monthly report on business, the ISM index dipped to 49.9 in August from 50.0 in July.

Economists polled by IFR Markets predicted the index would slip to 49.9.

An index reading below 50 signals a slowing economy, while a level above 50 suggests expansion. A reading of 50 shows the sector was unchanged in the month.

“The [purchasing managers index] indicates a slight decline in manufacturing during August,” said Norbert J. Ore, chairman of ISM’s manufacturing business survey committee. “This continues the 2008 trend toward negligible growth or contraction each month, but ultimately results in very little overall change in the sector.”

The closely watched prices paid index fell to 77.0 from 88.5. The employment index was at 49.7, down from 51.9 in July.

The production index decreased to 52.1 from 52.9, the new orders index rose to 48.3 from 45.0, the supplier deliveries index slumped to 50.3 from 55.1, the export orders index increased to 57.0 from 54.0, and the imports index rose to 48.5 from 46.5.

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