WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. companies’ productivity grew more briskly in the summer than previously thought and orders to factories rose in October for the first time in three months, suggesting the struggling economy will avoid falling into a new recession.

Productivity, the output per hour of work, grew at a sizzling annual rate of 5.1 percent in the third quarter, the Labor Department reported yesterday.

The performance was even better than the 4 percent growth rate estimated a month ago and represented a rebound from the tepid 1.7 percent pace in the second quarter.

Gains in productivity are helping to keep a lid on inflation, an important factor for Federal Reserve policy-makers as they try to energize the economy through low interest rates.

Separately, factory orders rose 1.5 percent in October after falling in both August and September, the Commerce Department said. That provided a dose of good news for the nation’s manufacturers, who have been trying to get through a late-summer rough patch.

Big-ticket manufactured goods, including cars and household appliances, posted a 2.4 percent increase in October and “nondurable” goods, such as clothes and food, rose 0.6 percent.

“The reports show that the economy by no means will go into a double dip recession,” said economist Clifford Waldman of Waldman Associates. “Consumers have enough energy to stay alive and keep the economy going because wages are growing at a healthy clip.”

But on Wall Street stocks dipped on profit warnings from Disney and Hewlett-Packard. The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 5.08 points at 8,737.85.

Gains in productivity are a crucial ingredient to the economy’s long-term vitality. Healthy productivity increases allow the economy to grow faster without triggering inflation.

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