Compiled By Jill Jusko The semiconductor equipment industry had been anticipating poor third-quarter market figures, and just-released data show that their expectations were more than met. Worldwide semiconductor manufacturing equipment shipments were $5.6 billion in the third quarter of 2001, according to the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI), San Jose, an international trade organization of companies that supply manufacturing technology and materials to the world's chip makers. That $5.6 billion figure is 55.6% below the same quarter a year ago and 20.2% behind the shipment figure for the second quarter of 2001. Even worse, worldwide equipment orders of $3.92 billion in the third quarter of this year are 75% below the same quarter a year ago and 12% below the orders figure for the second quarter of 2001. By region, North America shipped $1.66 billion in product during the third quarter of 2001, a drop of 52.7% from the same quarter a year ago. Japan, the next largest producer, saw total shipments of $1.47 billion in the third quarter of 2001, down 43.8% from the same quarter one year ago.