Orders to U.S. factories plunged in October by the sharpest amount in more than eight years as a deepening recession caused big cutbacks in demand for steel, autos, computers and heavy machinery.
Analysts expect that the weakness will continue for some time.
The Commerce Department reported Thursday that factory orders dropped 5.1% in October, the largest decrease since an 8.5% fall in July 2000.
It was larger than the 4% drop economists had been expecting.
They believe manufacturing will continue to be under pressure for many more months, reflecting a deepening recession that already is the longest slump in a quarter-century.
The drop in orders marked the third consecutive decline, with demand for both durable goods and nondurable goods falling.
Demand for non-military capital goods, considered a good proxy for business investment plans, fell 5% in October, the biggest decline since January and the fourth straight monthly decrease.