US factories expand at strongest rate in almost 14 years

US factories expand at strongest rate in almost 14 years

WASHINGTON — American manufacturers said they expanded in February at the fastest pace in nearly 14 years — gains driven in part by a jump in hiring.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, reported Thursday that its manufacturing index climbed to 60.8 in February from 59.1 in January. This was the strongest reading since May 2014. Any score above 50 signals growth.

The gains in the survey largely came from a surge in the employment and inventory components of the index. New orders and production expanded in February but at a slower rate than in January.

Among 18 manufacturing industries, 15 reported growth last month, including electronic products and transportation equipment. Only the apparel and furniture sectors said that activity had contracted.

Manufacturers are seeing high costs for raw materials, as the pricing component of the index reached its highest level since May 2011. The survey noted price increases for steel and aluminum in particular, a critical factor as President Donald Trump is expected on Thursday to announce tariffs that could further cause metal prices to rise.

U.S. manufacturing has expanded for the past 18 months. Solid economic growth around the world and a weaker dollar — which helps exports — have fueled the gains.

Josh Boak, The Associated Press

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