U.S. manufacturing growth accelerated for a third straight month in April, an industry report showed on Thursday, boosted by a pickup in employment growth.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity rose to 54.9 in April, up from 53.7 in March. It was the best reading since December.

The report beat analyst expectations for a reading of 54.3, though the index remains below November's recent peak of 57, which was the highest since April 2011.

Readings above 50 indicate expansion in the sector.

Gains in the month came alongside a rebound in the employment subindex, which jumped more than expected to 54.7 from March's 51.1, which had been the weakest since June 2013. Analysts were looking for a read of 52.8.

The forward-looking new orders index was unchanged at 55.1 while the production subindex slowed slightly, dropping to 55.7 in April from 55.9.