The Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) dipped 0.4% to 51.9 for May, according to a Markit report (link opens as PDF) released today.
The "flash" estimate is typically based on approximately 85% to 90% of total PMI survey responses each month and is designed to provide an accurate advance indication of the final PMI data.
Although an above-50 reading denotes general growth, these newest numbers put the index at a seven-month low. Still, analysts had expected even worse after April's unrevised 4.8% drop. Expectations for a 2.3% decrease to 50.8 proved too pessimistic.
While the index's new orders component grew 1.3 points to 52.8, other indicators couldn't keep up. Work backlogs expanded slightly, inventories fell, and export orders took a negative turn to 49.4.
Coinciding with today's jobless claims report, employment continued to expand, but at a slower rate than in April.
"With the PMI hitting a seven-month low, the U.S. manufacturing economy continues to show signs of weakening," said Markit Chief Economist Chris Williamson in a statement today. "Growth has slowed sharply in recent months, down from an annualised pace of 4.9% in the first quarter to just 1% in May."
Williamson points to "fiscal drag" as a potential problem spot, as well as the fragile state of export markets in many states.