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ACTIVITY in the manufacturing sector dropped for a third month -- but there are signs of a turnaround as employment increased slightly.

The seasonally adjusted NCB Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) posted the figure of 49.7 in August.

The figure to signal a third successive fall in operating conditions.

However, the decline was only marginal and weaker than the deterioration signalled in July of 48.2.

A measure of output actually grew for the first time in three months as the index climbed to 52.4 from 49.8.

The 50 mark divides growth from contraction.