WASHINGTON—U.S. orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods surged in September, buoyed by a jump in volatile aircraft orders that offset another weak month of business investment.
The Commerce Department says orders for durable goods jumped 9.9 per cent last month.
While it was the biggest gain in nearly three years, it followed a 13.1 per cent drop in August.
And most of the September gain was driven by a tremendous spike in aircraft orders, which plummeted in the previous month.
When taking out transportation, orders rose two per cent, and demand for core capital goods, such as machinery and equipment, were unchanged in September.
Core capital goods are considered a proxy for business investment plans.
Those orders rose only slightly in August after steep declines in July and June.
Durable goods are products expected to last at least three years.
Orders can fluctuate sharply from month to month.
Demand is sharply lower this year, which has weakened manufacturing and hampered economic growth.
High unemployment and low pay have kept consumers from spending.
Businesses have held back on investing in machinery and equipment, and slower global growth has dampened demand for U.S. exports.
Economists are concerned that businesses could pull back further if Congress doesn’t reach an agreement to avert steep tax hikes and government spending cuts scheduled to take effect in January.
There is some indication that U.S. factory activity could be improving.
A closely watched survey from the Institute for Supply Management, says manufacturing grew in September for the first time in four months.
It was buoyed by a jump in new orders.
Americans also boosted their spending at retail businesses in September, buying more cars, appliances and furniture.
Stronger consumer spending could help offset declining demand from overseas.
Still, the decline in U.S. manufacturing has slowed job growth.
Manufacturing employment dropped by 16,000 in September after falling by 22,000 in August.
The economy is not growing fast enough to generate much hiring.
Growth slowed to a tepid annual rate of 1.3 per cent in the April-June quarter, down from two per cent in the previous quarter.
Most economists see growth staying at or below two per cent in the second half of the year.