NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Manufacturing activity appeared to slow in March while goods orders continued showing increases in February, according to a pair of reports released Wednesday morning, suggesting factory recovery remains temperate.

Despite continuing signs of growth, one regional assessment of business liveliness took a step back. The Chicago Purchasing Managers' Index, which measures activity in the sector, registered a seasonally adjusted 58.8 in March. The reading offers a monthly snapshot of the industry by cobbling together survey responses of purchasing executives in the area.

While any figure above 50 tends to denote growth in the sector, and a mark below that hints at contraction, the March reading shrank away from February when the index registered 62.6. The March reading also came in below expectations calling for a lighter decline to 61, according to consensus data provided by

Particular readings tracked by the survey also waned in March. New orders fell to a 61.8 reading after hitting 62.2 in February, while the survey's production measure dropped to 60.5 this month from 65.2.

The group's employment reading, however, edged marginally higher to 53.1 this month after reading 53 last month. The inventory appraisal also turned higher to 52.4 from 42.4, which the report highlights as its first reflecting a build since October 2008.

The Chicago report serves as a precursor to the Institute for Supply Management's more broad business activity report, scheduled for release Thursday at 10:00 a.m. EDT.

Elsewhere, the Commerce Department said new factory orders rose again last month, marking increases in 10 of the last 11 months. Buoyed by demand for commercial planes, computers and machinery, among other items, new orders for manufactured goods increased $2.1 billion, or 0.6%, to $383.5 billion in February. The total landed just ahead of analysts' estimates of a 0.5% uptick. After excluding potentially wild swings in transportation goods, orders jumped by 0.7% during the month.

Still, last month's orders fell off the 2.5% surge in January and a 1.5% jump in December.

--Written by Sung Moss in New York