Midwest Manufacturing Expanded in September

Business activity across the Midwest rose at a faster pace in September, producing more although the hiring indicator declined. 

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The Chicago Business Barometer, also known as the Chicago PMI, increased to 54.2 in September from 51.5 in August. It remained solidly above the 50 mark, which separates expansion from contraction. 

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected the gauge to grow more modestly to 51.8. 

The increase was driven by gains in production. New orders and order backlogs were little changed in the month, with backlogs remaining in contracting territory. Employment fell from a 16 month high reached in August, the only component to decrease. 

"Economic growth in the U.S. appears to have picked up a little at the end of the third quarter," Lorena Castellanos, senior economist at MNI Indicators, the compiler of the Chicago PMI report said. "Although the employment component fell, this was on the back of a relatively strong showing in the previous month." 

The Chicago reading is one of several monthly regional surveys meant to measure the health of U.S. production. The Chicago report is slightly different from the others in that it includes some firms from the bigger and better-faring service sector and because it isn't conducted by a Fed bank. The index is known to be a volatile one, in part because it is influenced by swings in Boeing orders. 

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Nearly 80% of those surveyed said the run-up to the November presidential election was having a negligible impact on business. 

Write to Austen Hufford at austen.hufford@wsj.com