But that was back to where it was last July and a marked improvement on overwhelming adverse balances of minus 60 and minus 65 in the October and January sur veys.
An adverse balance of minus 48 per cent to the question about employment indicated that more manufacturing jobs are being lost than at any time since October 1991.
That compared with adverse balances of minus 27 per cent for export sales and minus 31 per for new export orders in the fourth quarter of last year.
For home market orders there was a marginal improvement since the New Year - though that still left an adverse balance of minus 58 per cent, six points below the national average.
It was also down sharply from adverse balances of minus 58 per cent in February and 100per cent in December.
This adverse balance of minus 44 per cent marked a return to heavy falls seen in midwinter and crushed hopes that a surprise improvement in February might be a portent of better things to come.
It also marks a turn for the worse from fairly stable adverse balances of between 42 and 44 per cent in the previous four months.
The adverse balance has extended to 51 per cent from49 per cent last month and 29 per cent in January.
Those with "worse than normal" orders outnumbered a handful saying they were better by 56 per cent of the sample, after adverse balances
of minus 48 per cent and minus 35 per cent in January and December.
But those expecting their prices to fall outnumber others hoping for an increase by 13 per cent, up from adverse balances
of ten per cent in each of the last three months.
But adverse balances
of 15 per cent for order books from all sources and 31 per cent for exports are both less deeply negative than for some months.
Although a balance of 24 per cent of the industrialists who replied to questions about exports said their orders were falling this compares with adverse balances
of 33 per cent in April and 36 per cent in January, indicating that the fall is now the slowest since January last year.