The US manufacturing sector continued to expand in December for the seventh consecutive month, but the pace of growth slowed down from the previous month, a leading industry survey showed Thursday. The U.S. Institute of Supply Management (ISM) said the manufacturing index, also known as the purchasing managers index ( PMI), edged down to 57.0 percent in December from 57.3 percent in November. A reading above 50 percent indicates the sector is generally expanding, while a reading below the ratio indicates contraction. The new orders index inched up to 64.2 percent last month from 63.6 percent in November, while the production index dropped by 0. 6 percentage point to 62.2 percent in December, according to the report. Of the 18 manufacturing industries, 13 reported growth last month, including food, beverage and tobacco products. Four industries including machinery reported contraction, the ISM said. Manufacturing has been a bright spot in output and employment since the recession ended in June 2009.