Manufacturers have been struggling in recent months because a strong dollar has made their products more expensive in foreign markets.
But the U.S. outlook was down from the IMF's January forecast of 3.6 percent growth in 2015 and 3.3 percent growth in 2016. The American economy advanced 2.4 percent last year.
The report showed employment in the production of goods remained flat at about 26 million, while service industry positions accounted for all of the 82 million new jobs created between 1967 and 2011.
“U.S. manufacturing is facing some pressure in terms of a stronger dollar and lower capital expenditures from the energy industry, but in taking the long view, we’re still in a good position overall,” said AMT President Douglas K. Woods.
The decline has deepened since mid-2014, feeding concern that growth might be falling too sharply and raising the risk of politically dangerous job losses.
In the semiannual report to Congress on international economic and exchange rate policies, Treasury officials expressed concern about weak domestic demand in Japan and Germany.
American manufacturers contend that the progress to date has been small and the Chinese currency remains undervalued by as much as 40 percent against the dollar. That makes American products more expensive in China and Chinese goods cheaper for American consumers.
The national average price is forecast to fall 32 percent from a year ago to $2.45 a gallon between April and September, the period when Americans do most of their driving. That would mark the lowest seasonal average since 2009.
The survey showed a lack of qualified workers as the leading manufacturing headwind — 35 percent of respondents identified that problem — followed closely by legislative or regulatory pressures at 33 percent and lack of demand at 29 percent.
Factory orders rose 0.2 percent in February, which was the first increase since July, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The climb was a welcome development for manufacturers struggling with disappointing economic growth in major trading partners like China, Europe and Japan.
Applications below 300,000 are generally consistent with solid monthly job gains. Layoffs have stayed close to historic lows, despite a pronounced economic slowdown in recent months.
The U.S. trade deficit plunged in February as both imports and exports sank, driven by a since-settled trade dispute and a global economic slowdown that has cut into oil prices and caused the dollar to rise in value.
The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, says its manufacturing index slipped to 51.5 in March from 52.9 in February. It was the fifth straight drop. Still, any reading above 50 signals expansion.
Beijing has cut interest rates twice since November to spur economic growth that fell to 7.3 percent in the final quarter of last year, fueling fears of a politically dangerous spike in job losses.
March sales were expected to be flat compared with last March. Car buying site TrueCar.com predicted total U.S. sales of 1.5 million vehicles in March, down less than 1 percent from a year ago.
Manufacturers shed 1,000 jobs in March, which likely reflects the twin drags of falling oil prices and a stronger dollar.
The March report from the National Association for Business Economics forecasts more hiring, a lower unemployment rate, a lower inflation rate and more growth in consumer spending in 2015.
Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The relatively low average shows that employers are holding onto workers and may increase hiring.
Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, blamed some of the weakness to the big plunge in energy prices, which has led to cutbacks in drilling plans by oil and gas companies.
The economy across the 19-country eurozone appears to be gaining momentum as a closely-watched survey Tuesday found business activity hit a near four-year high in March.
The numbers signaled a "slight deterioration" in Chinese manufacturing, said the report, which found decreases in sub-indexes for new orders, new export orders and employment.
The three indicators which subtracted from growth were weekly unemployment benefit applications, weekly manufacturing hours and the index for new orders tracked by the Institute for Supply Management.
Economists partly blame the strong dollar, which makes U.S. exports overseas more expensive. It also makes imports cheaper, potentially undercutting U.S. goods.
The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment aid rose slightly by 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 291,000.
A widening trade deficit contributed to the slowdown in overall economic growth in the fourth quarter and is expected to be a drag on growth in 2015 as the stronger dollar makes American products less competitive on overseas markets.