New government statistics published yesterday indicate the economy still is growing at a robust pace-particulary in the industrial sector, which some economists have feared may be overheating.
Commmerce Department figures showed new factory orders rose a strong 1.8 percent in March, following increases of 1.6 percent in February and 1.7 percent in January. The March total reached an adjusted $147.5 billion.
At the same time, the agency said construction spending across the nation leaped 2.9 percent in March, rebounding smartly from a 1.4 percent drop in February. The earlier decline had been caused by bad weather.
The statistics came as, separately, Federal Reserve Board Chairman G. William Miller admonished that no one should be surprised if the Fed tightens credit further, as it did last week, despite his earlier assertion it was unneeded.
Miller told a group of reporters yesterday that those who were caught off guard simply weren't paying attention to his warning that the Fed would look at all statistics. He said there could be further tightening in the short term.
The Fed began pushing interest rates up late Friday after its policy-making Federal Open Market Committee voted to tighten monetary policy. The vote reversed a decision a few days before to hold policy steady.
Miller also predicted that the U.S. current account-the measure of trade, tourism, military sales and earnings on foreign investment-will be in balance next year after racking up a $16 billion deficit in 1978.
Meanwhile, Carter administration trade representative Robert S. Strauss predicted that U.S. consumers may save up to $10.6 billion a year as a result of the tariff reductions negotiated in the Geneva trade talks.
Separately, Barry P. Bosworth, director of the administration's Council on Wage and Price Stability, said the new wage-price guidelines have been put "in a defensive position" as a result of recent wage-price trends.
However, Bosworth argued that while the guidelines have not provide any estimates of the guidelines' impact.
The increase in new orders was concentrated almost entirely among nondurable goods, which soared 4.2 percent in March after a 1.5 percent jump in February. The rise brought the total to an adjusted $65.55 billion.
Orders for durable goods remained essentially stable in March, dipping a scant 0.1 percent to a revised $81.95 billion. In February, orders for durable goods rose by 1.6 percent.
Revised figures on new orders for non-defense capital goods-a barometer of future spending on new plant and equipment-showed a drop of 2.9 percent during March, the department reported.