NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- After a bump up in March, manufacturing was supposed to slow down in April. But thanks to an increase in transportation-related orders, that didn't happen. And for a change, the angel is in the details.
Orders for durable goods jumped 0.8% in April, handily beating forecasts for a 0.8% decline. On top of that, March figures were revised upward to show a 3.6% gain in the month when the Northeast and Midwest were just beginning to thaw out. The government initially reported a 2.5% March gain.
The best parts of the numbers are what people ordered more of, and that unfilled orders rose a bit more than orders as a whole, pointing to nice gains ahead as those orders get filled.
Computer orders jumped 7%, and orders for nondefense capital goods rose 3%. Machinery orders dipped 1.4% but were so strong earlier in the year that they're still up 7%. Categories like these are essential to making productivity increase faster -- a prerequisite to wage gains the market increasingly wants to see. They would make the Federal Reserve and Janet Yellen happy as well. After all, wages are the issue Yellen has made her own since taking over the central bank this year.
Unfilled orders in general, excluding the volatile defense industry, are up 11.6% so far this year, including a 5.9% gain when orders related to transportation are also excluded. The category numbers for unfilled orders are filled with double digits: an 11.8% gain in primary metals, 19.7% in communications equipment, 14.9% in civilian aircraft.