Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Factory Orders Increase Fifth Straight Month

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Factory Orders Increase Fifth Straight Month

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Orders to factories rose a fifth straight month in December, leading economists to predict a strong showing for manufacturing in 1994 _ but one that might not immediately help the jobless.

"We're getting somewhere," said Priscilla Trumbull, an economist with the WEFA Group in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

Orders to U.S. factories rose 1.2 percent in December and helped drive up orders for the year 5.9 percent, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. It was the longest string of advances since a 10-month stretch from late 1987 to mid-1988.

Analysts said the length of the current rise is heartening, suggesting the expansion will sustain itself.

But they were less optimistic about the prospects for reducing unemployment because much of the rise in factory orders is for new and better business equipment that increases productivity and may actually cut the work force.

"Manufacturers have had to invest to cut costs," said Trumbull. "The pattern has been to cut back on labor. It's painful for the workers."

The overall picture for manufacturing is promising, said Cynthia Latta of DRI McGraw-Hill in Lexington, Mass.

"It gives us good momentum going into 1994," she said, particularly noting increased orders for cars as well as appliances and other home furnishings spurred by a housing boom.

While factory orders fell in five of the first seven months of 1993, the subsequent rebound led to the best annual rise in five years.

The 1993 increase, to $3.1 trillion, was the second straight yearly advance and the largest gain since an 8.4 percent jump in 1988. Orders rose 3 percent in 1992.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits shot up by 59,000 to a seasonally adjusted 422,000, the highest level since July 25, 1992. But analysts said the figures may be distorted by unseasonably cold weather and other statistical glitches.

In December, factory orders totaled a seasonally adjusted $266 billion, up from $262.8 billion the previous month. Orders have risen every month since a 1.9 percent decline in July.

Orders for durable goods, including such items as cars and home furnishings, rose a revised 2. …

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