Areport earlier this month by the Commerce Department that new orders for manufactured goods rose by 2.1 percent in January — the largest month rise in five months — is a “long awaited ray of sunshine that we hope is the beginning of spring,” said Jerry Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C. According to a release on NAM's Web site, last year, manufacturing output edged up just 1.3 percent — the slowest first-year recovery since the government began tracking the manufacturing sector back in 1919. This follows a recession year in 2001 when manufacturing GDP dropped by 6 percent while the rest of the economy grew by 2 percent.

Manufacturing has lost jobs for 30 consecutive months, more than 2 million in total. Excluding the volatile motor vehicles sector, new orders rose a solid 1.5 percent after a similar 1 percent increase in December. “It appears that the manufacturing sector is on a modest recovery path following a dismal fourth quarter, Jasinowski said. “With energy costs on the rise and uncertainty about a possible war on the horizon, it is critical that the Administration and Congress work together to pass an economic growth package that focuses on businesses, consumers and investors.”

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