Jobless Claims Down; Manufacturing Productivity And Orders Up

The bottom line on Feb. 3's federal economic data dump: Good for manufacturing.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance edged downward last week, falling by 9,000 to 316,000, the U.S. Labor Department reported on Feb. 3. The department's four-week moving average of initial claims, which smoothes out week-to-week swings in the data, fell by 10,250 to 331,500.

U.S. manufacturing productivity advanced at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.6% during the final quarter of 2004 and grew 4.9% for all of last year, the Labor Department also reported on Feb. 3. In productivity growth, manufacturing well outpaced the overall nonfarm business sector of the U.S. economy in both the fourth quarter of 2004 and for the full year. Productivity grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of just 0.8% in the nonfarm business sector during the fourth quarter; for the full year, productivity growth in the sector was 4.1%.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that new orders for manufactured goods in December rose three-tenths of a percentage point, or $1 billion, to $379.1 billion. For all of 2004, new orders for manufactured durable and nondurable goods were up 11.1% from their 2003 level.

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