ByJohn S. McClenahen Consumption of machine tools in the U.S. in April declined 8% from March to $171.36 million as the industry, once an economic bellwether, continues to lag the recovery from recession. New orders for metal-cutting machine tools were $154.49 million, down 7.2% from March's mark; orders for metal-forming machines were $16.87 million in April, down 14.5%, according to data jointly compiled by the American Machine Tool Distributors' Association (AMTDA), Rockville, Md. and AMT-The Association for Manufacturing Technology, McLean, Va. For the first four months of 2002, gross new orders for metal-cutting and metal forming machines for U.S. consumption totaled $689.02 million, some 30.8% below the first four months of last year. "Manufacturing is still dragging despite some optimistic general reports of a near-term recovery," says Ralph J. Nappi, AMTDA's president. "As long as manufacturing continues to move outside the U.S. for cheaper labor and more favorable manufacturing environments, the investment in metalworking equipment will be slow."