A Sept. 27 Commerce Department report indicated that new orders for manufactured durable goods fell by 0.3% in August after declining 1.1% the previous month, suggesting that manufacturing was bottoming out before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, says Jerry Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers.

Jasinowski says that available data hints that a turnaround may have been forming before the attacks. "Excluding transportation, new orders actually were up by nearly half a percent due to increases in new orders for machinery, communications equipment and semiconductors, and new orders for nondefense capital goods rose 0.8% in August from the previous month," he comments.

"Though one month's worth of data does not make a trend, the likelihood of a turnaround in the manufacturing sector by year's end was strong," says Jasinowski. "But the terrorist attacks are likely to soften consumer confidence in the short term, postponing a recovery in manufacturing until early 2002," he observes.

Jasinowski stresses that the most important challenge now is to "strengthen business and consumer confidence in the U.S. economy."