The U.S. manufacturing sector still struggles, but there are hopeful signs. The Institute for Supply Management’s (“ISM”) September 2012 report on economic activity shows sector growth for the first time in three months, albeit at a tepid 51.5 points. Values above 50 indicate expansion. Employment in the sector continues to grow but at a lower pace than 2011, adding about 5,000 monthly jobs over the summer versus about 19,000 in 2011. The September ISM data does show that the nation’s economy grew for the 40th consecutive month, however, and significant competitors are doing worse. China’s manufacturing sector contracted for the eleventh straight month and the decline is deepening. HSBC Holdings PLC and Market Economics report that in August China’s manufacturing sector contracted at the fastest pace since March 2009 and marked the seventh straight quarter of decline. That may comfort U.S. manufacturers competing with the Chinese.