Data Suggest Slower Rate Of Recovery

By John S. McClenahen In April, new orders for manufactured goods decreased 1.7% to $356.9 billion, the U.S. Commerce Department reported June 3. The decline was greater than economists generally expected and was in sharp contrast to a 5% increase in March. Orders for manufactured durables, generally big-ticket items designed to last three years or more -- fell 3.2% in April to $191 billion. Orders for nondurables were essentially flat from March to April. Initial claims for unemployment insurance are on their way down again -- although not by as much as economists generally expected. Last week, they totaled 339,000, some 6,000 fewer than the previous week's revised figure of 345,000, the U.S. Labor Department reported on June 3. The department's four-week moving average of initial jobless claims increased by 5,250 to 341,000, however, still reflecting strength of recent weekly rises. The Labor Department also reported on June 3 revised productivity figures for the first calendar quarter of this year. First-quarter productivity growth in manufacturing is now said to have been at an annual rate of 2.9%, down two-tenths of a percentage point from the 3.1% rate initially reported. The reason for the change: Hours worked were revised upward and output was not. For the overall non-farm business sector of the economy, which includes manufacturing, the productivity growth rate was raised to 3.8% from the earlier estimate of 3.5%.

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