Economic activity in the manufacturing sector declined for the 15th consecutive month in October, according to the Manufacturing Report on Business by the National Association of Purchasing Managers. Declines in production and new orders were among the largest in the history of the NAPM report, which began in 1931. The disastrous results were attributed to the economic shocks rendered by the Sept. 11 attacks.

Even so, NAPM survey chairman Norbert Ore offered reasons to believe the manufacturing slump may have bottomed out. He noted that "the trend lines were moving in a positive direction prior to this report." Ore also said, "New export orders indicated a much sharper decline in September than in October, while the other indexes declined significantly in this reporting period - possibly signaling a greater sense of confidence in global business during October."

Another glimmer of hope came from the 2002 F. W. Dodge Economic Forecast, which pegs contracting for manufacturing buildings to edge up 2% next year, as its four-year decline reaches bottom by early 2002. The category will still be extremely weak by historical standards, however, down 35% from its most recent peak in 1997.