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U.S. factories grew more slowly last month amid concerns of surging coronavirus cases

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2019
                                Machines work on a Ford vehicle assembly line at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant in Chicago.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2019

    Machines work on a Ford vehicle assembly line at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant in Chicago.

WASHINGTON >> American factories grew at a slower pace last month and there are concerns that surging coronavirus infections will endanger economic recovery.

The Institute of Supply Management, an association of purchasing managers, reported today that its manufacturing index dipped to 57.5 in November from 59.3 in October. Any reading above 50 signals that manufacturing is expanding. The ISM index plunged in the spring but has since bounced back and now shows factories on a six-month winning streak.

New orders and production grew more slowly last month. Hiring actually dropped, reversing a gain in October. New export orders grew faster. Sixteen of 18 industries surveyed reported growth last month, led by apparel and mineral manufacturers.

The U.S. economy collapsed from April through June and has since been recovering. But a sharp increase in infections is raising fears that the recovery will lose momentum as state and local governments issue lockdown orders and Americans stay home on their own to avoid infection.

“For now, the manufacturing sector appears to be weathering another round of virus outbreaks fairly well,″ Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a research note. “However, the outlook is uncertain given targeted restrictions and shutdowns, at home and abroad, could disrupt activity and weigh on demand.″

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