NEW YORK _ The manufacturing sector expanded again in March but did so at a slower rate, a private research group reported Monday, evidence of a still-strong economy.
The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index was 55.2 last month compared with 56.7 in February. Readings above 50 indicate the sector is expanding; those below 50 indicate manufacturing activity is shrinking. Economists had projected a reading of 57.7.
``The first quarter is now complete, and the ISM data indicates that it was a good quarter for U.S. manufacturing,'' said Norbert J. Ore, chair of ISM's survey committee. ``In general manufacturing continues to experience a significant level of growth.''
The sector's growth, characterized by strength in new orders to factories and in production, came despite continued concerns among manufacturers about high prices for energy and metals, Ore said.
Of the 20 manufacturing sectors tracked by ISM, 15 reported growth.