The U.S. manufacturing sector slumped to a nearly three-year low in March, with the ISM® Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index® falling to 46.3 from 47.7 in February. Any reading under 50 indicates contraction.

New orders: New orders were down for the seventh consecutive month, to 44.3 from 47.0, with notably weak demand cited by manufacturers.

Hiring and exports: Both hiring and exports declined, to 46.9 from 49.1, and to 47.6 from 49.9, respectively.

Some better news: Production was up slightly, to 47.8 from 47.3, though it still declined for the fourth month in a row.

Related better news: Meanwhile, private manufacturing construction grew 2.7% in February, to a record $140.32 billion from $136.66 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. .In the past 12 months, manufacturing construction activity has grown 53.8%.