NEW YORK, March 1 (UPI) -- U.S. manufacturing activity expanded in February but the pace of growth slowed from January, a research firm confirmed Friday.
Markit Economics said the manufacturing sector's Purchasing Managers Index dropped to 54.3 in February. That was nearly a full point lower than the flash estimate released earlier that was based on 85 percent of the data available.
In January the PMI stood at 55.8, showing faster growth. Growth is indicated by any figure above 50 in the report.
The Institute for Supply Management reported a nearly identical PMI mark for February, putting the headline index at 54.2, ISM pegged new orders at 57.8 and production at 57.6, both improvements from January. The employment index was reported as 52.6, a slower rate of growth than January.
ISM also said 15 of 18 manufacturing groups showed growth in February, paced by apparel, leather and allied products, miscellaneous manufacturing and paper production.
The three sectors in decline were textile mills, computer and electronic products and chemical products, ISM said.
Markit said the component indexes of output at 57.3 and new orders at 55.4 remained strong while growth in employment fell to its lowest point -- at 53.5 -- since November.
"The manufacturing sector ... looks to be on course to expand at a robust quarterly rate of approximately 2 percent in the first quarter, proving an important stimulus to the economy as a whole and helping to drive a strengthening in the rate of gross domestic product growth," Markit Chief Economist Chris Williamson said.