Economic activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector continued to expand at better-than-expected rate in April due to strong gain in employment, giving evidence that a solid recovery was coming back, an industry survey showed Thursday. The manufacturing index, also known as the purchasing managers index (PMI), registered 54.9 percent, an increase of 1.2 percentage points from March's reading, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said in a report. It indicated expansion in manufacturing for the 11th consecutive month, and the overall economy grew for the 59th consecutive month. A reading above 50 percent indicates the sector is generally expanding, while a reading below the ratio indicates contraction. Employment grew for the 10th consecutive month in April, registering 54.7 percent, an increase of 3.6 percentage points from the previous month. The New Orders Index also registered 55.1 percent in April, unchanged from the previous month, while the Production Index registered 55.7 percent, slightly down from 55.9 percent in the previous month. Of the 18 manufacturing industries, 17 reported growth. The only industry reporting contraction are nonmetalic mineral products. Respondents of the business survey generally remained positive, however, some expressed concerns about international economic and political issues potentially impacting demand. The U.S. economy grew a paltry 0.1 percent in the first quarter partly due to the adverse weather, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. Economists believed growth would come back as consumption and construction would recover after the bad weather ended.