US manufacturing expanded more quickly in March

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 1, 2014 at 10:05 am •  Published: April 1, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. manufacturing grew at a slightly faster pace in March compared with February as factory output recovered from disruptions caused by severe winter weather. Manufacturers also received more orders, suggesting that production could strengthen a bit in the months ahead.

The Institute for Supply Management, a group of purchasing managers, said Tuesday that its manufacturing index increased to 53.7 from 53.2 in February. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The increase suggests that manufacturing is growing at a steady but modest pace after cold winter weather caused a sharp slowdown in the first two months of the year.

Even so, factories are hiring at the slowest pace in nine months, the survey found. The government will release its official jobs report for March on Friday.

Manufacturing activity had plunged in January as harsh snow storms shut down factories and disrupted supply shipments. It rebounded slightly in February as orders and stockpiles grew. But a measure of production plummeted in February to a five-year low. That measure recovered all its losses in March.

The overall index remains below the level that prevailed in the second half of last year, when it regularly topped 56.

"There's still some catching up to do," said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets. "But at least it is heading in the right direction."

The growth was broad-based and many comments from manufacturers in the survey were positive. Fourteen of the 18 industries tracked by the index reported growth.

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