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Survey: US manufacturing expands more slowly in March; factory employment grows at faster pace

A survey shows U.S. manufacturing activity expanded more slowly in March than February, held back by weaker growth in production and new orders. The one bright sign in the report was that factories hired at a faster pace.

The Institute for Supply Management says its index of factory activity slipped to 51.3 percent. That's down from 54.2 percent in February, which was the fastest growth since June 2011.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion. The index has signaled expansion for four straight months. But the drop in February growth was bigger than economists expected, suggesting some companies may have been wary of steep government spending cuts that began on March 1.

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