In this Friday, June 21, 2013 photo, a Thomasville Furniture truck moves through traffic on Interstate 79 near Evans City, Pa. The Commerce Department
In this Friday, June 21, 2013 photo, a Thomasville Furniture truck moves through traffic on Interstate 79 near Evans City, Pa. The Commerce Department reports, Tuesday, July 2, 2013, on orders placed with U.S. factories in May. (Associated Press)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Orders to U.S. factories rose in May, helped by a third straight month of stronger business investment. The gains suggest manufacturing may be picking up after a weak start to the year.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that factory orders rose 2.1 percent last month. April's increase was revised higher to 1.3 percent from 1 percent.

Most of the increase in May was due to a big jump in volatile commercial aircraft demand. Still, businesses also ordered more machinery, computers and household appliances.

This measure of business investment hadn't increased for three straight months since the fall of 2011.

Manufacturing has struggled this year after helping propel the economy in the first three years after the recession ended. The overall gain in factory orders follows another report that shows manufacturing activity picked up in June. The Institute for Supply Management's index of manufacturing activity rose to 50.9 from 49. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.


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