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US private sector expansion slows in March; employment growth near 3-year high

Growth in the U.S. private sector slowed in March compared to the previous month amid lower services business activity and weaker manufacturing output, IHS Markit reported.

The seasonally adjusted IHS Markit flash U.S. composite output index fell to a reading of 54.3 this month from 55.8 in February. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

The flash U.S. services business activity index decreased to 54.1 in March from 55.9 in February, while the flash manufacturing purchasing managers' index rose to 55.7 from 55.3. However, the flash manufacturing output index slipped to 55.2 from 55.5.

IHS Markit said new order volumes expanded at a strong pace and employment grew at the fastest rate since May 2015. IHS Markit chief economist Chris Williamson said their latest data indicated a payroll gain of 240,000 in March.

Business confidence on growth prospects in the year ahead continued to be among the highest levels over the past three years, according to IHS Markit.

"The flash PMI surveys indicate that the economy likely continued to expand at a robust pace in March, rounding off a solid opening quarter of the year," Williamson said.