While the increase came in the usually volatile transportation sector — demand for commercial aircraft jumped 75.9 percent — orders dropped 1.5 percent outside the sector, the largest decrease in 16 months.
Orders for computers dropped 18.2 percent, while demand for furniture decreased 4.7 percent.
The manufacturing sector has bolstered the economic recovery so far, and a Wednesday report helped ease concerns that showed growth that was better than expected.
The Institute for Supply Management's report increased to 56.3 last month from 55.5 in July as manufacturers showed a strong desire to hire workers.
Any reading above 50 indicates expansion, and economists had expected a figure closer to that level. The sector accounts for about 11 percent of the economy and has been a driving force of the recovery as consumer spending — 70 percent of the economy — has faltered.