By John S. McClenahen The economic data are still catching up as the U.S. economy moves into the final quarter of 2003. But the latest batch of numbers isn't encouraging. After three consecutive months of increases, including a 2% rise in July, new orders for manufactured goods fell 0.8% in August to a seasonally adjusted rate of $327.8 billion, the U.S. Commerce Department reported on Oct. 2. The fall in factory orders was significantly higher than the 0.2% decline that economists generally expected. Also on Oct. 2, the U.S. Labor Department reported that initial claims for unemployment insurance rose 13,000 last week to 399,000. Claims totaled 386,000 the previous week. The department's four-week moving average of initial jobs claims was 403,500 last week, 5,000 less than it was the previous week. However, the average remains above 400,000, suggesting that the U.S. labor market continues to be soft.