The government published another round of statistics, yesterday showing the economy still is performing robustly, despite predictions by some economists that the nation is heading into a recession.
In by far the most important set of figures, the Federal Reserve Board reported that industrial production rose a strong 0.7 percent in November, after rising 0.5 percent in October and 0.4 percent in September.
At the same time, the Commerce Department said business inventories jumped a vigorous 0.9 percent in October, following a moderate 0.5 percent increase the month before.
The Fed also reported that capacity utilization in manufacturing rose to 85.7 percent in November, its highest level since mid-1974. The rate compares to 85.4 percent in October. Overall capacity utilization was 82.9 percent.
The gain in industrial production buoyed key Carter administration officials, who have been contending that the talk of a coming recession is unfounded and that the economy will escape with little more than slowed growth.
The figures came in the wake of a spate of other encouraging statistics in the past two weeks:
The total number of jobs in the economy grew by a record 543,000 in November, allaying earlier fears that employment gains might be tapering off. Industry payrolls also swelled visibly over the month.
Retail sales rose a strong 2 percent in November, countering apprehensions that consumer spending might be waning. Moreover, a preliminary decline recorded for October was revised to show a hefty 1.3 percent gain.
Durable goods orders also have come in strong.
Although most forecasters still are predicting a recession, top administration officials have been seizing on the new figures to bolster their argument that the economy isn't headed for trouble at all.
President Carter told a Business Council audience Wednesday he feared that too much loose talk about a possible recession might turn out to be a "self-fulfilling prohecy." And the administration top economic advisers insited Thursday a recession was not in sight.
A similar tack was taken yesterday by Arthur F. Burns, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, who told a group of reporters he thought the "talk . . . that is going on about a recession is premature."
Burns conceded at a luncheon meeting that "a reasonable case" could be made for predicting a recession of some sort by the end of 1979, but, he warned it was not a "conclusive case."
"If we're going to have a recession, it's not going to come in the first half of the year," Burns said. At the same time, he said, "I would not rule out a recession in the second half."
Burns also advised the Carter administration in effect to ride out any recession that does come, and not try to counter it by restimulating the economy. "They ought not to get too excited," he told the group.
He indicated the thought President Carter was unlikely to meet his anti-inflation goal of slowing prices to 6.5 percent or less next year.But he said Carter has no consulted him on economic matters since he left office.
The rise in industrial production was spread fairly evenly throughout the economy. Output of consumer goods rose 0.5 percent over the month, while production of business equipment jumped 0.7 percent.
There were visible increases in the output of automotive products and consumer non-durables. However, production of home goods declined. Overall production now stands 7.3 percent about its level of a year ago.
The figures on inventories showed the sharpest increases came in stockbuilding in wholesale and retail trade. Manufacturing inventories rose only moderately. Overall inventories totaled $367.92 billion.
Significantly, the department reported that the business stock-to-sales ratio fell to 1.39 months in October, down from 1.41 in September. Analysts said this served further to allay fears about over-accumulation.