NEW YORK - Manufacturing activity expanded in November as new orders and production improved, but weakness in employment suggested that industrial jobs may not be plentiful in the coming months.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group based in Tempe, Ariz., said yesterday that its manufacturing index registered 50.8 last month, compared with 50.9 in October. A reading above 50 indicates growth in manufacturing; one below 50 spells contraction.

"While other segments of the economy are struggling, manufacturing continues to grow due to continuing strength in new orders, and a recovery in production from last month," Norbert Ore, chairman of the institute's business survey committee, said in a statement. "Prices, driven higher by energy prices, are once again the major concern."

The price index advanced to 67.5 from 63.0 the month before, meaning manufacturers are paying more for their raw materials.

The report showed a decline in the employment index to 47.8 from 52.0, indicating that manufacturing jobs are contracting, said Doug Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets.

"The one concern in the report is the steep drop in the employment index to a reading below 50," Porter said. The weak result could foreshadow a disappointing national employment report, which the Labor Department will release Friday, he added.

The latest institute index, while still showing growth, is down from its recent peak of 56.0 in June.

The index for new orders rose to 52.6 in November from 52.5 in October, while production expanded to 51.9 from 49.6.

Seven industries reported growth in November - apparel and leather; food, beverage and tobacco; paper products; chemical products; machinery; electrical equipment, appliances and components; and computers and electronics products.