By Christopher S. Rugaber, AP
WASHINGTON — Demand for U.S. factory goods dropped by the most in three years in March, driven lower by a sharp fall in volatile orders for commercial aircraft. Still, more recent data suggest the decline may be temporary.
The Commerce Department said Wednesday that orders for factory goods fell 1.5 percent, the steepest decline since March 2009, when the economy was mired in recession. Orders rose 1.1 percent in February.
A key reason for the drop was aircraft orders plummeted nearly 50 percent. The category can fluctuate sharply from month to month.
Excluding transportation goods, orders were unchanged. Demand for less durable items, such as food, chemicals and gasoline, rose 0.5 percent.
“Despite this month’s decline, new orders have been on a rising trend,” Steven Wood, an economist at Insight Economics, said in a note to clients. “The demand for manufactured goods is recovering moderately and irregularly.”
Factory orders have rebounded after plummeting during the recession. Orders in March totaled US$460.5 billion, 37 percent higher than the recession’s low point reached three years ago. That’s still 4.2 percent below the peak reached in December 2007, the month the recession began.