Industrial Production, Jobless Claims Reflect Weak U.S. Economy

By John S. McClenahen The numbers could have been worse. Nevertheless, the latest data on U.S. industrial production and initial claims for unemployment insurance are consistent with a weak economy. In July, U.S. industrial production -- which includes mining and utilities in addition to manufacturing -- rose 0.2%, its seventh consecutive monthly increase, reports the Federal Reserve Board. However, the rate of growth was dramatically lower than June's 0.7% and May's 0.5%. What's more, U.S. industry operated at just 76.1% of capacity in July, just one-tenth of a percentage point better than June's figure and a full 5.8 percentage points below the 1967-2001 average. Meanwhile, the number of initial job claims rose 6,000 to 388,000 during the week ending Aug. 10, says the U.S. Labor Department's Employment & Training Administration. That's opposite of the decline to 375,000 that most economists anticipated. The closely watched four-week moving average of claims also rose -- by 1,250 to 381,750 -- during the week ending Aug. 10.

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