Durable Goods Orders

The Importance of Durable Goods Orders in the Economy

When it comes to understanding the health and direction of the economy, one key indicator that economists and investors closely monitor is durable goods orders. Durable goods are products that are expected to last for at least three years, such as cars, appliances, and machinery. The measurement of durable goods orders provides valuable insights into the strength of consumer and business spending, as well as the overall state of the manufacturing sector. In this article, we will explore what durable goods orders are, how they are measured, and why they matter.

What are Durable Goods Orders?

Durable goods orders refer to the demand for long-lasting products that are intended to be used for an extended period. These goods are typically more expensive and require a significant investment from consumers or businesses. Examples of durable goods include automobiles, furniture, computers, and industrial machinery. The measurement of durable goods orders tracks the number of new orders placed with manufacturers for these products.

The U.S. Census Bureau conducts a monthly survey to collect data on durable goods orders. The survey covers a wide range of industries, including transportation, machinery, electronics, and defense. The data collected is used to calculate the Durable Goods Orders report, which provides valuable insights into the current and future state of the economy.

How are Durable Goods Orders Measured?

The measurement of durable goods orders involves tracking the number of new orders received by manufacturers. This data is collected through surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The survey asks manufacturers to report the total value of new orders they have received for durable goods during a specific period.

The Durable Goods Orders report includes both the total value of new orders and the percentage change from the previous month. This allows economists and investors to analyze the trends in demand for durable goods and make predictions about future economic growth.

Why Do Durable Goods Orders Matter?

Durable goods orders are an important economic indicator for several reasons:

  • Consumer Spending: Durable goods are often considered big-ticket items that require careful consideration and planning before purchase. An increase in durable goods orders indicates that consumers are confident in their financial situation and willing to make significant purchases. This, in turn, stimulates economic growth.
  • Business Investment: Durable goods orders also reflect the level of investment by businesses. When businesses are confident in the future outlook of the economy, they are more likely to invest in new machinery, equipment, and other durable goods. Increased business investment leads to job creation and overall economic expansion.
  • Manufacturing Activity: The measurement of durable goods orders provides insights into the state of the manufacturing sector. A rise in orders suggests increased production and activity in manufacturing industries, which is a positive sign for the overall economy.

By analyzing durable goods orders, economists and investors can gain a better understanding of the current state of the economy and make informed decisions. For example, if durable goods orders are declining, it may indicate a slowdown in consumer spending and business investment, which could be a sign of an impending economic downturn.

Case Study: Durable Goods Orders during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on durable goods orders, providing a real-world example of their importance in understanding economic trends. As the pandemic spread and lockdown measures were implemented, consumer spending plummeted, leading to a sharp decline in durable goods orders.

In April 2020, durable goods orders in the United States fell by a record 17.7%, reflecting the uncertainty and economic hardship caused by the pandemic. Industries such as automotive, aerospace, and furniture manufacturing were particularly affected, as consumers postponed or canceled their purchases.

However, as the economy gradually reopened and stimulus measures were implemented, durable goods orders started to recover. In May 2020, orders increased by 15.8%, signaling a rebound in consumer and business confidence. This recovery continued in the following months, indicating a gradual return to economic growth.


Durable goods orders are a crucial economic indicator that provides insights into consumer and business spending, as well as the overall state of the manufacturing sector. By tracking the number of new orders for long-lasting products, economists and investors can gauge the strength of the economy and make informed decisions. Durable goods orders matter because they reflect consumer spending, business investment, and manufacturing activity. Understanding the trends in durable goods orders can help predict economic growth and identify potential downturns. The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a case study, highlighting the impact of external factors on durable goods orders and their significance in understanding economic trends.

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