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Originally published March 15, 2012 at 7:42 AM | Page modified March 15, 2012 at 9:35 AM

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Manufacturing in 2 US regions grew in March

Manufacturing in the northeastern United States expanded this month at its best pace in nearly a year. The growth confirms other data showing the U.S. economy is strengthening.

AP Economics Writer

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WASHINGTON —

Manufacturing in the northeastern United States expanded this month at its best pace in nearly a year. The growth confirms other data showing the U.S. economy is strengthening.

A Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia index of manufacturing conditions rose in March to 12.5, its highest reading since April 2011. A similar survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York rose to 20.2, a 21-month high.

Both reports showed that factories in those regions added jobs in early March.

Manufacturing has been growing in those regions since the fall. Over the summer, it contracted because of the supply-chain disruptions caused by the Japan earthquake and tsunami.

Nationally, factory output increased in January and December. Busier factories have helped drive three of the best months of hiring since the recession ended.

The Labor Department reported last week manufacturing jobs grew by 31,000 in February. Over the past year, manufacturing jobs increased 227,000.

Since the recession ended in June 2009, factories have contributed disproportionately to the recovery in hiring and the overall economy.

Cooper Howes, an economist at Barclays Capital, said that the surveys reinforced his view that the strength in manufacturing was continuing.

Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said that the New York survey was "more evidence that the U.S. economy could finally be on the right track."

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