Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

U.S. Productivity Up 2.7% in 1992; High for 2 Decades

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

U.S. Productivity Up 2.7% in 1992; High for 2 Decades

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Americans' productivity climbed 2.7 percent last year, the most in two decades, according to a government report that raised hopes that a long-awaited rebound in the nation's competitive standing is at hand.

In a torrent of good economic news Thursday, other reports showed: The nation's retailers had surprisingly strong sales in January. U.S. factories in December enjoyed their biggest surge in orders in 17 months. After rising for three straight weeks, new claims for unemployment benefits finally eased a bit in late January.

The U.S. economy even got some help from overseas as Germany's powerful central bank lowered two key interest rates hours after a similar rate cut in Japan. Analysts said the foreign rate cuts should spur the world economy and U.S. exports while at the same time helping to keep U.S. rates low.

At the White House, President Clinton, still working on the details of his economic revival program, said the good news was encouraging but that the bottom line was increased jobs.

"I'm happy that the productivity rates picked up, and I'm glad that people are able to finance their homes at lower interest rates. But I'm still not convinced that this country is yet set on the right course in terms of generating jobs. And that's the key thing _ jobs," Clinton said.

Private analysts agreed. They said that unless job growth picks up considerably in the months ahead, the surge in consumer spending that has powered the economy so far will falter. A critical piece of jobs information will come Friday when the government releases its employment report for January.

Economists were hoping to see an increase in payroll jobs of at least 100,000. That would be double the anemic rate of the past several months but it still would not be enough to push the unemployment rate down from the 7.3 percent level where it has been stuck since November. …

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