MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's manufacturing sector grew in August for the first time since April 2011, a poll showed on Monday, boosted by new export orders, but factories continued to cut staff and focus on using up their stocks of finished goods.
Markit's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) of manufacturing companies stood at 51.1 in August, up from 49.8 in July, marking the first time in 28 months the index was above the 50 line separating growth from contraction.
The manufacturing PMI figure was slightly above the 50.8 expected by analysts polled by Reuters.
"As has been the case in recent months, exports were the key source of positive momentum as growth quickened sharply," economist at Markit Andrew Harker said.
"Firms appear still to doubt the sustainability of the current improvements, however, opting to raise output only modestly and often using existing stocks to meet new order requirements."
The manufacturing sector accounts for just over 12 percent of Spain's economy, which has been in recession since the second half of 2011, dragged down by dire domestic demand as consumers rein in spending faced by massive unemployment and sliding house prices.
The export sector meanwhile has gone from strength to strength, helping to offset the worst of the downturn, and was worth almost a third of total output last year, up from just over a fifth before the economic slump began.
Employment in the manufacturing sector contracted at its fastest pace since April, and has fallen for every month but one since August 2007, with those polled suggesting efforts to improve efficiency continued to drive layoffs.
The employment index slumped to 45.8 in August from 47.8 a month earlier, Markit said.
(Reporting by Paul Day; Editing by Hugh Lawson)