updated 11/26/2008 9:29:25 AM ET 2008-11-26T14:29:25

Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods plunged in October by the largest amount in two years as manufacturing was battered by the overall economic weakness.

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The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that orders for durable goods dropped by 6.2 percent last month, more than double the 3 percent decline economists expected.

The report showed widespread declines throughout manufacturing led by decreases in autos and airplanes.

The manufacturing sector is being hit by the slowdown that is occurring in the rest of the economy. The prospect that the U.S., the world’s largest economy, has entered what could be a severe recession, is dragging down growth in other areas and dampening demand for U.S. exports, which had been the one bright spot for the economy this year.

Demand for autos fell by 4.5 percent last month, reflecting the hard times facing U.S. automakers, who are appealing to Washington for a sizable bailout package. Orders for commercial aircraft fell by 4.7 percent.

Total transportation orders were down 11.1 percent last month. Excluding transportation, orders for durable goods fell by 4.4 percent, nearly triple the 1.5 percent drop that had been expected.

Demand for primary metals such as steel plunged by 12.6 percent in October, the biggest drop on record. Orders for machinery fell by 6.8 percent, while demand for computers and other electronic products fell by 2.4 percent.

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