US factory output rises in March

Posted April 02, 2012, at 9 p.m.
Last modified April 04, 2012, at 5:26 a.m.

WASHINGTON — U.S. factories stepped up hiring and production in March, the latest evidence that manufacturing is growing at a healthy pace and fueling the recovery.

But a separate report on construction spending showed that building activity declined in February for the second straight month, disappointing economists.

The reports show “that the economy is still locked on a very gradual healing trajectory,” said Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Monday that its index of manufacturing activity rose to 53.4 in March. That’s up from 52.4 in the previous month. Readings above 50 indicate the sector is expanding.

A measure of manufacturing employment rose to a nine-month high, a sign that factories are hiring more workers. Manufacturers are already a big source of job gains. They’ve added more than 100, 000 jobs in the past three months, about one-seventh of all net gains.

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