U.S. manufacturing hit an almost 2½-year high last month as the Institute for Supply Management’s December Manufacturing PMI registered 60.7%. It was the 8th consecutive month of growth for the overall economy following March’s COVID-19-related decline.

The food, beverage, and tobacco industry was among the industries reporting growth. Challenges remain, however, namely in the supply chain issues and workforce. The prices index jumped from 65.4% to 77.6%. All tracked commodities went up in price, while several, including personal protective equipment, remain in short supply. Meanwhile, the food, beverage, and tobacco industry was one of five reporting decreased employment.

“COVID-19 is affecting us more strongly now than back in March,” an industry respondent said. “Vendors/service suppliers unable to maintain levels of service due to employee shortages. Logistic issues also hurting us due to coronavirus-related problems.”

ISM Chair Timothy Fiore noted that “absenteeism, short-term shutdowns to sanitize facilities and difficulties in returning and hiring workers are causing strains that are limiting manufacturing growth potential.” On a positive note, however, he said that there were three positive comments for every “cautious” one, which represents an improvement from the previous month.