U.S. manufacturing activity shrank in November to the slowest pace since July 2009, according to a closely watched index of manufacturing activity compiled by the Institute for Supply Management.
China's manufacturing activity rose to a 14-month high in December, adding to signs the world's second-largest economy is recovering, a survey showed Friday. But export orders weakened.
Economists say the U.S. economy is growing in the current October-December quarter at an annual rate below 2 percent. That would be slower than the 2.7 percent growth rate in the July-September quarter and too weak to rapidly lower the unemployment rate.
The job market is making steady gains. Employers added 146,000 jobs in November. That's about the same as the average monthly gain of 150,000 in the past year.
The unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent — a four-year low — from 7.9 percent in October. But the decline occurred mostly because more people without jobs gave up looking for work. The government counts people without jobs as unemployed only if they're actively seeking one.