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TORONTO, March 3 (Reuters) - The pace of growth in the Canadian manufacturing sector picked up in February as staffing levels at companies improved modestly, data showed on Monday.
The RBC Canadian Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' index (PMI), a measure of manufacturing business conditions, rose to a seasonally adjusted 52.9 last month from 51.7 in January.
A reading above 50 shows growth in the sector.
The gauge of employment edged up after contracting the month before, though the rate of growth remained small at 50.4.
New orders similarly saw soft growth, with the component slipping to 52.6 from 52.9. It was the weakest pace in six months and partly reflected slower new export orders.
Still, exports should improve as the year progresses, said Craig Wright, chief economist at RBC.
"As we move through 2014, we'll see a strengthening in exports relative to imports, with trade contributing more than it has to Canada's growth over the past decade," he said in a statement.
"This should encourage a rebound in investment activity, particularly amongst manufacturers."
Input prices rose at the fastest pace since May 2011, jumping to 65.1 from 59. Some firms said the recent drop in the Canadian dollar helped push input costs higher.