Manufacturing sector continues its expansion

April produced the strongest reading since June, and it follows two months of slightly weaker growth compared with gains in January.

New orders, production and employment all picked up pace in April. New orders moved to 58.2 from 54.5, their best showing in a year. Employment increased to 57.3 from 56.1, the highest level since June and a signal that the sector is maintaining a solid pace of hiring. 

Meanwhile, new export sales also jumped to 59 from 54 while inventories contracted for the month and pricing pressures remained unchanged but elevated. 

"Today's report is welcome, especially with so many of the other surveys showing manufacturing activity easing in the past month or two," Chad Moutray, chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers, said.

"Stronger growth in many of the indicators also foretells additional production and job creation in the coming months, mirroring the more upbeat expectations for the rest of 2012 observed in other data," Moutray said. 

The manufacturing sector has been a leader in the economic recovery, expanding for 33 straight months.