US factories gain some hum

Production by US factories, mines, and utilities rose for the first time in seven months in August, the Federal Reserve Board said. The nation's central bank said industrial production increased 0.5 percent, after a string of declines that began in February when the recession was starting to take hold.

A sharp 2.4 percent jump in the production of construction supplies -- which had been on the wane for six months -- accounted for most of the overall improvement. Moderate increases in the production of home goods, food, and clothing also helped.

There was one discouraging development in the report. Automobiles assemblies , which had been showing some improvement, were off 12 percent. The Federal Reserve said the slump in auto production was due partly to shortages of parts for certain car models.

The gain in production, if it can be sustained, is encouraging news for the economy. It suggests that factories are beginning to operate at higher levels again and may start to hire back laid-off workers. It also indi cates that the 1980 recession has run its course in about half a year -- making it the briefest of seven economic downturns the nation has had since the end of World War II.

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