The first sentence a Washington Post article told readers:

"American manufacturing unexpectedly contracted in July for a second month, reflecting a drop in orders that threatens to undercut a mainstay of the recovery."

As the article then explains, this statement is referring to an index from the Institute for Supply Management which showed a reading of 49.8 percent in July. A reading of less than 50 is associated with contraction in the sector.

However this is a broad index that assesses many factors, including orders and hiring. It does not directly measure factory output. We do have such a measure from the Federal Reserve Board. While the numbers for industrial production are not yet available for July, the Fed's index showed manufacturing output increasing by 0.7 percent in June (following a comparable decline in May). This means that if manufacturing output does fall in July, it will be the first month, not the second.

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