US manufacturing activity contracted in November, with businesses blaming the slow global economy and uncertainty from the fiscal cliff battle in Washington, the ISM monthly survey showed Monday.
Businesses also cited the impact of superstorm Sandy, which shut down much of the Northeast economy for several days at the beginning of the month.
The Institute for Supply Management's monthly manufacturing sector index fell to 49.5, in contraction territory below the 50 breakeven level, from a positive 51.7 in October, snapping two straight monthly gains.
It was the lowest level on the index since July 2009.
Only six of 18 manufacturing sectors showed growth, with some survey respondents citing a general slowdown since midyear and others blaming the storm which blasted ashore in heavily industrial New Jersey at the end of October, shutting down New York and other major cities and cutting power for millions.
The sub-index for new orders fell 3.9 points to 50.3, and the employment index fell 3.7 points to 48.4. Inventories also contracted while price growth slowed, all showing the manufacturing sector as sluggish in the month.
"Global economic uncertainty still seems to be sticking around which is not necessarily making things worse, but it is also not making things better from a demand standpoint," said one respondent from the chemicals sector.
A respondent in the fabricated metal products industry called the looming fiscal cliff tax hikes and budget cuts that take effect in January unless politicians agree a budget compromise "the big worry right now."
"We will not look toward any type of expansion until this is addressed."