WASHINGTON - Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket durable goods plunged in September for the fourth-consecutive month. In another indication of deepening economic woes, the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose last week to the second-highest level in nearly a decade.
The Commerce Department said the 8.5 percent decline in orders for durable goods - items expected to last three or more years - was led by a 15.9 percent falloff in demand for transportation goods, a category that includes autos and airplanes.
In manufacturer-laden Augusta, the Georgia Department of Labor said the jobless rate inched up 4.5 percent from August to 4.7 percent in September, the result of 500 lost jobs in retail trade, construction and manufacturing.
Georgia's unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percent to 4 percent in September.
"The slight rise in the state is due to the economic downturn we had been experiencing prior to the tragic events of September 11," state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond said.
Nationally, the bad economic report news sent stock prices tumbling. The Labor Department said the drop in orders was certain to worsen the problems in the manufacturing sector, which has shed more than 1 million jobs since spring 2000.
The department reported that newly laid-off Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose by 8,000 last week to 504,000, the second-highest figure in nearly a decade and a level that is generally associated with recessions.
The economic weakness also hit the nation's housing market, which had been outperforming the rest of the economy. In September, sales of existing homes fell by 11.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.89 million units.
|The slowing economy has pulled metro Augusta's unemployment up two-tenths of a percent to 4.7 percent for September.|