MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's manufacturing sector expanded slightly in December, getting back to growth after a brief dip in November thanks to a rebound in output and new orders, a survey showed on Thursday.
Manufacturing activity has grown, albeit mildly, in four of the last five months. Markit's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) of manufacturing companies rebounded to 50.8 in December from 48.6 in November, climbing back above the 50 line dividing growth from contraction.
However, manufacturers continued to cut staff last month, albeit it a slower rate, with the employment index coming in at 48.4 compared with 45.1 in November.
The employment index in Markit's PMI survey has not shown sustained growth since mid-2007.
"The return to growth of the Spanish manufacturing sector at the end of 2013 was a positive sign, largely as it allayed fears that the decline seen in November heralded the start of a new downturn" said Andrew Harker, a senior economist at Markit.
"Rises in output and new orders lay a platform that firms will hope to build on during the new year should tentative improvements in client demand strengthen," he said.
Spain's economy is expected to return to low growth in 2014 after it pulled out of a two-year recession in the third quarter of this year. Strong exports and less-weak domestic demand have driven the tentative recovery.
More than 26 percent of the workforce remains jobless, and employment is not expected to show a major recovery next year.
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(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Hugh Lawson)