WASHINGTON — Key private indexes of manufacturing and consumer confidence edged up in October, while the government reported an increase in construction spending in September as economic data released Thursday indicated moderate economic growth.
All three readings were in line with analyst expectations, and came as new private and government data on unemployment pointed toward modest employment gains last month.
The Labor Department will release the October jobs report on Friday, the last major economic data point before Tuesday’s presidential election. Economists project the report will show the economy added 125,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9%.
U.S. factories continued to power up last month after a summer contraction, according to the Institute of Supply Management. The group’s purchasing manager’s index increased to 51.7, up 0.2 percentage points from September’s reading.
It marked the second consecutive month of expansion in the vital manufacturing sector after three months of slight contraction. October’s reading indicated the pace of growth had accelerated a bit from September as new orders and production picked up.
“Manufacturing continues to hold up better in the U.S. than in the rest of the world,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight.
“It is still under pressure from global economic headwinds and domestic policy uncertainty,” he said. “But improvements in the domestic economy — notably in housing and consumer spending — are providing support.”
Consumer confidence also improved in October, rising to its highest level since February 2008, according to the Conference Board.
Its index increased to 72.2 from 68.4 in September as improvements in the jobs market buoyed consumers’ views of economic conditions.
“Consumers were modestly more upbeat about their financial situation and the short-term economic outlook, and appear to be in better spirits approaching the holiday season,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.
In another sign of improvements in the housing market, the Commerce Department reported that construction spending increased 0.6% in September from the previous month.
Private and public construction spending rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $851.6 billion in September.
The September pace was a 7.8% increase from the same month a year earlier. For the first nine months of 2012, construction spending was up 8.9% compared to the same three quarters in 2011.