New York A series of economic reports released Thursday offered mixed messages about the direction of the economy.
While construction spending rose and Americans made more money and spent more, a survey of manufacturing activity showed the economy contracted for the second straight month. However, the rate of decline was slower than in recent months.
A fourth study charted a rise in first-time claims for unemployment insurance.
"We're not slowing down as fast," said Dan Laufenberg, chief U.S. economist for American Express Financial Advisers in Minneapolis. "But if we put all of these together, it suggests to me that the economy actually is still slow, but it wasn't as slow as in the first quarter."
The National Association of Purchasing Management, an organization of corporate purchasing executives, reported that its index of business activity rose to 41.9 in February from 41.2 in January.
An index above 50 signifies growth in manufacturing, while a figure below 50 means contraction. A level below 42.7 also generally indicates a contraction in the overall economy.