The headline index, known as the Purchasing Managers Index, came away from a four-month low of 47.9 in February to a reading of 48.3 in March. Even with the improvement, however, the data indicate that British manufacturing remains in contraction.
The breakeven point is 50; figures above that indicate growth.
"Manufacturers are still feeling the impact of subdued demand in domestic and export markets, as consumers and businesses rein in spending and the Eurozone remains in what seems to be a perpetual cycle of crisis," said Markit economist Rob Dobson.
Dobson said the figures were weak enough to "convince more members" of the Bank of England's policy making committee to support a new round of quantitative easing.
"The onus is now on the far larger service sector to prevent the U.K. from slipping into triple-dip recession," Dobson said.