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U.S. manufacturing growth slows in April

By: Christopher Rugaber The Associated Press
May 1, 2013 Updated: May 1, 2013 at 9:50 am
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photo - FILE - In this Wednesday, April 17, 2013, file photo Ford's Flat Rock Assembly Plant employees cheer as the millionth Ford Mustang is driven off the assembly line in Flat Rock, Mich. The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its index of manufacturing activity slipped to 50.7 last month, down from 51.3 in March and the slowest pace this year. A reading above 50 indicates expansion. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
FILE - In this Wednesday, April 17, 2013, file photo Ford's Flat Rock Assembly Plant employees cheer as the millionth Ford Mustang is driven off the assembly line in Flat Rock, Mich. The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its index of manufacturing activity slipped to 50.7 last month, down from 51.3 in March and the slowest pace this year. A reading above 50 indicates expansion. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) 

WASHINGTON U.S. factory activity expanded at a slower pace in April, held back by weaker hiring and less company stockpiling. The report is the latest to suggest economic growth has slowed this spring.

The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its index of manufacturing activity slipped to 50.7 last month. That's down from 51.3 in March and the slowest pace this year. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

A measure of hiring fell sharply to 50.2, the lowest level since November. That suggests factories cut jobs again in April. And manufacturers cut back on stockpiling for the second straight month.

The ISM's employment gauge hasn't been a reliable indicator in recent months: It reached a nine-month high in March, conflicting with government data that reported factories shed 3,000 jobs.

Despite the decline in the pace of growth, economists noted that the survey still shows that manufacturing expanded for the fifth straight month.

A similar index for Colorado, the Colorado Business Conditions Index released Wednesday by the Goss Institute for Economic Research, slipped to 'a still healthy ' 58.2 last month from March's 60.8.

'The state is adding jobs at approximately twice the pact of the nation, ' institute director Ernie Goss said in a news release. 'Our surveys over the past several months indicate that this favorable gap for Colorado will continue for the next three to six months. '

There were some positive signs in the national report. A measure of production and new orders rose. More new orders indicate companies may have to rebuild their stockpiles in the coming months. Order backlogs grew at a faster pace. Higher orders points to more factory output in the coming months.

'This is not a slump, just more slow growth, ' John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities, said.

Still, slower growth in manufacturing suggests some companies may be worried about across-the-board government spending cuts that began on March 1. The survey noted that one company tied to the defense industry mentioned that cuts had weakened its business in April.

The decline follows a report last week that said businesses slowed their investment in facilities and equipment in the first quarter.

A recession in the 17 European Union countries and weaker global growth threatens demand for U.S. exports. A measure of export orders in the ISM survey grew at a slower pace in April.

Factories may also see slower sales this spring because consumers are starting to feel the impact of higher Social Security taxes. Americans increased their spending from January through March at the fastest pace in more than two years. But spending on goods fell in March, a sign that the tax increase may be catching up with consumers.

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The Gazette added to this story.

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