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Local manufacturers grew at their fastest-pace in 14 months during September, as a strengthening flow of new orders led to a surge in production at the region’s factories, a purchasing managers group reported.

With more orders flowing into local factories since the beginning of summer, manufacturers stepped up production at their plants, with output rising at its fastest pace in more than nine years, according to a new survey by the National Association of Purchasing Management – Buffalo.

And that bodes well for the rest of the fall, said Jay K. Walker, the Niagara University economist who compiles the report.

“We are showing an expansion coming into the fourth quarter,” he said. “This should foreshadow continued strength in production levels for the near term.”

The September spike left the group’s business activity index at its highest level of this year and just shy of its July 2012 peak.

Walker noted that the local factories have been growing faster than a comparable nationwide index for the last seven months – a significant turnaround from the general weakness that the region’s manufacturers endured during the late summer of last year through the late winter of this year.

The group’s business activity index jumped to 62.4, well above the 50 mark that separates a growing economy from a declining one. The index had stood at 57.2 during August.

The improvement was felt almost across the board by local manufacturers, with orders and production rising, while employment grew.

Production grew at its fastest pace since July 2004, with a little more than half of the managers surveyed reporting that their companies increased their output last month, while the percentage of manufacturers reducing production was cut in half to less than 20 percent during September.

The flow of new orders, which has been strong for the last three months, continued to strengthen, with nearly two-thirds of the managers reporting order growth at their firms, up from half during August.

Hiring also continued to grow, although the pace slowed a bit during September, with only a little more than a quarter of the managers saying their companies hired more workers last month, down from 40 percent in August.

Inventories, which had been growing more slowly during much of the summer, jumped during September, equalling the 2013 high set in May. The group’s commodity price index resumed its upward climb during September after recording its first monthly decline in 4½ years during August.

email: drobinson@buffnews.com