(Corrects to remove word "to" in second paragraph so story reads "slipped from 57.1 in February" and not "slipped to from 57.1 in February")
NEW YORK, April 1 (Reuters) - U.S. manufacturing activity slowed in March after nearing a four-year high in February, but the rate of growth and the pace of hiring remained strong, an industry report showed on Tuesday.
Financial data firm Markit said its final U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index slipped from 57.1 in February to 55.5, a reading that was unchanged from Markit's preliminary reading, which was released last week. Readings above 50 indicate expansion.
The latest reading was solidly ahead of the 53.7 January reading, an indication that the impact of harsh winter weather on manufacturing activity was starting to fade.
The new orders component fell to 58.1 from 59.6 in February, partly the result of a decline in overseas demand, Markit said. Output edged down to 57.5 from 57.8 while firms took on workers for a ninth consecutive month.
The final read on new orders was 0.1 higher than the preliminary read, while the output subindex was unchanged.
"The survey indicates that factory output growth has picked up again after the weather-related disruptions seen at the start of the year, presenting policymakers with an encouraging picture of a healthy goods-producing sector," said Markit chief economist Chris Williamson.
Most economists expect the harsh winter that enveloped much of the country in January and February have dampened first-quarter growth. The U.S. economy grew at a 2.6 percent rate in the final four months of 2013.
Markit's flash reading is based on replies from about 85 percent of the U.S. manufacturers surveyed. (Reporting By Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)