Midwest manufacturing conditions in September contracted for a third month amid ongoing weakness in energy and agriculture, according to a closely watched economic report from Creighton University.

The Mid-America Business Conditions Index released Monday fell to 45.5 in September, from 47.8 in August and 47.6 in July. Any index below 50 signals economic contraction.

In Minnesota, the business conditions index fell to a weak 48.4 from 49.4 in August as new orders, sales and delivery times contracted during September. On the upside, Minnesota factory heads reported an uptick in hiring at the same time that food producers reported overall gains.

"The state's food processing industry continues to expand at a solid pace," said Ernie Goss, report author and director of Creighton's Economic Forecasting Group. "The [food] industry has increased employment by almost 5 percent over the past 12 months.

Offsetting this growth were downturns among metal manufacturers and machinery producers."

Manufacturing's downturn in Minnesota and the Midwest contrasted with growth reported nationally. On Monday, the Institute for Supply Management reported that its U.S. factory index grew to 51.5 in September from 49.4 in August.

In the nine-state Midwest region, new orders, production, exports, inventories and employment were particularly soft, the Creighton survey showed. At the same time, inflation pressures bumped up wholesale and raw material prices.

The region includes Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.