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U.S. Factory Orders Down, Jobless Claims Up

Orders to U.S. factories fell for a record fifth straight month in December, closing out the worst year for American manufacturers since 2002. Analysts say the deepening U.S. recession will mean further weakness in coming months.

In a separate report from the Labor Department, new jobless claims jumped far more than expected last week in an already dismal labor market, and there's no relief in sight for workers as mass layoffs persist.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders dropped by 3.9 percent in December, an even bigger decline than the 3 percent that economists had been expecting. The weakness was widespread, with a range of industries from autos to heavy machinery and computers all reporting big declines in demand. Orders dropped a revised 6.5 percent in November.


For all of 2008, factory orders rose 0.4 percent, the weakest showing since orders fell by 1.8 percent in 2002.

Analysts are forecasting that manufacturers will continue to face hard times in the coming year because of a deepening U.S. recession and weakness that has spread worldwide, cutting sharply into demand for U.S. exports.

For December, demand for durable goods — products expected to last at least three years — fell by 3 percent, even worse than the 2.6 percent drop that the government initially reported last week.

Demand for nondurable goods, products such as food, paper and petroleum, fell by 4.8 percent in December following an 8.7 percent fall in November. Some of this decline reflects the big drop in energy prices that has occurred in recent months.

The weakness last month reflected a 0.2 percent dip in demand for transportation goods as demand for commercial aircraft fell by 43.8 percent, the second big monthly decline. Faced with slumping sales of jetliners, Boeing announced recently that it plans to cut 10,000 jobs.


Boeing Orders Plunge

Separately, Boeing said its commercial jet deliveries rose slightly in January compared with the same month last year, but orders for new airplanes fell sharply, reflecting weaker demand amid the global economic slowdown.

The Chicago-based company says it delivered 35 planes last month. That compares with 34 deliveries in January 2008.

But Boeing says it received orders for just 18 airplanes. That's down 72 percent from January last year, when the company received orders for 65 aircraft.

Unemployment Rolls Grow

The number of laid-off workers seeking jobless benefits rose last week to a seasonally adjusted 626,000, from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 591,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The latest total is far more than analysts' expectations of 583,000. That's also the highest since October 1982, when the economy was in a steep recession, though the work force has grown by about half since then.

The number of people who remained on the unemployment compensation rolls increased slightly to nearly 4.8 million, the most since records began in 1967.

From the Associated Press

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