Machine tool orders and shipments, generally regarded as significant economic indicators, both showed significant gains last month according to the National Machine Tool Builders' Association.

Total machine tool shipments during November were 17 percent higher than in October and 41 percent higher than in November 1977, the industry group reported today.

Orders and shipments of machine tools are considered significant because machine tools themselves are used to produce other goods.

Bolstered by a 36 percent increase in export orders to supplement a 6 percent increase in domestic orders. November machine tool orders totaled $448.8 million, an 8 percent increase from the month before.

"We believe that the continuing growth in machine tool shipments reflects the industry's confidence in a continuing demand for capital goods," said NMTBA President James Gray in releasing the data. "Changes in the tax to encourage more capital formation have given businessmen more confidence in capital, which is badly needed for industrial modernization," Gray added.

He pointed to the "positive sales effect" of the 1978 International Machine Tool Shows as reason to believe that there is a "fundamental strength underlying the U.S. economy at the present time."

Much of the growth has come from the metal-forming machine tool sector, which has seen a 26 percent increase in orders from October and a 59 percent hike in orders from a year ago, Gray noted.