Durable goods orders plunged 17.2 percent in April from the month before as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) disrupted the economy, the U.S. Commerce Department said in a report today.
Orders totaled almost $170 billion last month, down from $205.3 billion in March.
The monthly decline followed an adjusted 16.6 percent fall in orders in March. Orders have posted declines in three of the past four months.
COVID-19 accelerated the trend as efforts to stop the spread of the virus spurred drops in demand, factory shutdowns and stay-at-home orders. COVID-19 has caused more than 100,000 U.S. deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Orders for transportation equipment were especially hard hit, nosediving 47 percent on a monthly basis in April to $26.6 billion.
Excluding transportation, new durable goods orders fell 7.4 percent. Excluding defense, orders declined 16.2 percent.
Airlines have slashed schedules as COVID-19 reduced demand for air travel. That, in turn, has hit aerospace companies. Boeing Co. said this week it will lay off 6,770 U.S. employees after completing a buyout program.
“I wish there were some other way,” CEO David Calhoun said in a letter to workers.
COVID-19 also has pared demand for light vehicles. Automakers with North American factories this month resumed production after altering operations to make them safer from the coronavirus.
Orders for motorized vehicles and parts had a monthly decline of 52.8 percent in April, according to today’s report. The orders figure for commercial aircraft was a negative $8.5 billion, reflecting cancelations. Orders for defense aircraft plunged 32.7 percent.
In other categories, orders for primary metals declined 13.8 percent to almost $16 billion. Orders for fabricated metal products dipped 12 percent to $26.7 billion. Orders for machinery slipped 16.8 percent to $28.9 billion.
The Commerce Department report is based on a survey of about 3,100 companies.