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The Journal Gazette

December 02, 2016 1:00 AM

US factories expand for November

News services

WASHINGTON – American factories expanded for the third straight month in November, another good sign for the U.S. economy.

The Institute for Supply Management says its manufacturing index came in at 53.2 last month, up from 51.9 in October and highest since June. Anything over 50 signals growth.

New orders and production grew faster in November. Hiring and export orders increased but more slowly than they did in October. Eleven of 18 manufacturing industries reported growth last month, led by petroleum and coal producers.

From October 2015 through February this year, American manufacturing retreated in the face of economic weakness overseas and a strong dollar. But factories began to recover as the dollar tumbled during the first half of the year.

The manufacturing index resumed growth in March and has topped 50 for eight of the last nine months.

Builders’ spending on construction up

U.S. builders boosted spending on construction projects by a modest amount in October, helped by big gains in spending on home construction and the biggest increase in government projects in 10 months.

Construction spending rose 0.5 percent in October following no change in September, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Home construction increased 1.6 percent, helping offset a 2.1 percent drop in spending on nonresidential projects. Outlays for construction of offices, hotels and shopping centers all declined. Spending on government projects jumped 2.8 percent, the biggest increase since last December, as federal and state and local spending all rose.

Financial markets have rallied since the election of Donald Trump, reflecting in part enthusiasm over his vows to increase spending on projects to repair and replace the country’s aging infrastructure.

Weekly jobless claims up slightly

More Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. But claims are still at low levels that point to greater job security.

The Labor Department said Thursday that applications for jobless aid rose by 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 268,000. The less-volatile four-week average ticked up 500 to 251,500. The overall number of people collecting unemployment checks was 2.08 million, down more than 5 percent from a year earlier.

Weekly claims have stayed below 300,000 for 91 straight weeks, longest streak since 1970, when the total number of workers in the U.S. economy was smaller than today’s levels.

Applications for jobless benefits are a proxy for layoffs. The current levels suggest employers are confident that growth will continue. The unemployment rate is 4.9 percent, close to what economists consider full employment.

Starbucks CEO to take on new role

Starbucks says CEO Howard Schultz is stepping down from that role at the chain that he joined more than 30 years ago.

The Seattle-based company announced Thursday that Kevin Johnson, who was named president and chief operating officer last year, will become chief executive as of April 3.

Schultz, currently chairman and CEO, will become executive chairman to focus on innovation and social impact activities, among other things.