The government published a batch of new statistics yesterday that tended to confirm that the lengthy coal strike had only a mild impact on the economy, and that the recovery has resumed.
The Commerce Department reported that new factory orders - an important indicator of future economic activity - rebounded sharply in February, rising 3.8 percent following a 4.4 percent decline in January.
At the same time, the agency said six of its 10 "leading economic indicators" posted improvements in February, including the key measure of contracts and orders for new plant and equipment.
The overall index remained unchanged over the month, following a 1.3 percent decline in January. However, so many components were distorted by the coal strike that officials dismissed the overall figure as meaningless.
The combination of statistics tended to bolster earlier reports that the coal strike did little damage to the economy. While there were layoffs in some hard-hit areas, the total was far fewer than had been expected.
Analysts now expect the economy to rebound some from the impact of the strike and for the recovery to continue at a moderate pace. In addition to the strike's effects, the economy was impeded earlier by snow and cold weather.
In the report on the leading indicators, the six components that showed improvement last month included length of the average work week, change in sensitive prices, firms reporting slower deliveries, building permits, contracts for plant and equipment, and new orders.
Those moving adversely included the change in total liquid assets, stock prices and the money supply. Another indicator, the layoff rate, was unchanged from January's levels.
The index of leading indicators is supposed to foretell changes in the direction of the economy.However, the statistic is useful primarily at turning points in the business cycle, and not during the middle of an upturn.
The 3.8 percent increase in new factory orders came primarily in transportation equipment.