WASHINGTON — American factories expanded last month at the fastest pace in more than two years.
The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Wednesday that its manufacturing index came in at 57.7 last month, up from 56 in January and highest since October 2014. Any reading above 50 signals growth.
Factories have now expanded for six straight months. New orders, production and export orders grew faster. Hiring grew, but at a slower pace than it did in January.
Seventeen of 18 manufacturing industries reported growth in February.
American factories have bounced back after being hurt in early 2016 and late 2015 by cutbacks in the energy industry, a reaction to low oil prices and a strong dollar, which makes U.S. products costlier in foreign markets.
Bradley Holcomb, chair of the institute's manufacturing survey committee, said manufacturing's winning streak is being driven by ordinary Americans.
"Ultimately, it's the consumer — consumer demand, consumer confidence," he said. "They are buying things in stores that we manufacture."
The Conference Board said Tuesday that consumer confidence rose last month to the highest level since 2001.
"As far as I can see, there's nothing standing in the way of continued growth (in manufacturing) at these kinds of levels," Holcomb said.