Institute for Supply Management's index of U.S. manufacturing activity rose to 53.4 in March from 52.4 in February, driven by consumer and business spending on autos, machinery, other goods

WASHINGTON , April 2, 2012 () – US manufacturing grew in March at a faster pace than the previous month, driven higher by greater consumer and business spending on autos, machinery and other goods.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, says 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 employment in the sector rose to a nine-month high, an indication that factories are still hiring at a healthy clip.

Manufacturers are 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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