US factory production rose 0.9 percent in January, the Federal Reserve Board reports. Most analysts considered the sharp improvement to be the best sign yet that the recession is ending. The Fed also revised upward the December figure - to a 0.1 percent improvement instead of the slight decline reported earlier.
Automobile and steel production, with help from defense and space industries, fueled most of the upturn. The latest index of industrial production was also helped by a 1.4 percent increase in construction supplies.
Up to now, factories have been the largest contributor to unemployment lines, so the turnaround in production is seen as a watershed for the nation's industrial sector. Improvements in production, if sustained long enough to become a trend, eventually will force factories to call back laid-off employees.