The U.S. manufacturing sector ramped up employment for a second consecutive month in January; the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the sector added 5,000 workers in January, building on a gain of 11,000 workers in December, according to an analysis by the National Association of Manufacturers.

"We hope this is a sign that manufacturers are starting to accelerate their hiring in light of a stronger demand and production outlook," said Chad Moutray, chief economist for NAM. "Today's report stands in contrast to the numbers throughout much of 2016. Last year, manufacturers were taking a more cautious approach, and as a result there are 46,000 fewer manufacturing workers today than one year ago, as global headwinds and economic uncertainties continued to take their toll on manufacturing activity."

Average weekly earnings in manufacturing also moved higher, up from $1,072.04 in December to $1,075.49 in January. On a year-over-year basis, average weekly earnings have increased from $1,042.33 in January 2016, up 3.2 percent for the 12-month period.

A separate measure of activity also expanded in January, the nation's supply executives said in the latest Manufacturing ISM Report On Business. The January Purchasing Managers Index registered 56 percent, an increase of 1.5 percentage points from the seasonally adjusted December reading of 54.5 percent. That level of PMI corresponds to a 4 percent increase in real gross domestic product on an annualized basis, according to Bradley Holcomb, chair of the Institute for Supply Management.

Overall, this week was packed with more positive reads on the U.S. economy, according to a weekly summary by Wells Fargo Securities' Economics Group.