Markit Inc.'s (NASDAQ:INFO) Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) declined 1.7% to 56.3 for July, according to a 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. An above-50 reading denotes general growth, while below 50 signals contraction.

While July's index points to solid growth, this month's report came in below analyst expectations for a slight 0.3-point rise from June's 49-month high of 57.6.

According to Markit, a slowdown in manufacturing production growth was a main reason for this month's decline, but its 60.4 component reading still signals a historically strong rate of growth. Markit noted that new business growth remains strong, and that manufacturing employment rose for the 13th straight month.

Improving employment seems to be a common occurrence in today's economic reports, with weekly jobless claims dropping 6.3% to their lowest levels since 2006.

"US manufacturers are enjoying a summer of scorching growth," said Markit Chief Economist Chris Williamson in a statement today. "The data suggests the sector is growing at an annualized rate of roughly 8% as we moved into the second half of the year."

Williamson also noted that rising demand enabled manufacturers to increase prices "to the greatest extent seen so far this year," pointing to a positive inflation push for producers.

Justin Loiseau owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.