U.S. factories increase production in final month of 2011

Industrial production grew 0.4 percent in December 2011, after falling 0.3 percent the previous month. December helped fourth-quarter manufacturing totals rise at an annual rate of 3.1 percent, marking the 10th consecutive quarterly gain.

The manufacturing sector alone grew 0.9 percent in December, while both durables and nondurables saw similar advances. Total industrial production reached 95.3 percent of its 2007, pre-recession average, rising 2.9 percent above 2010's levels.

"Manufacturing remains an engine of growth," said John Herrmann, a senior fixed-income strategist at State Street Global Markets LLC in Boston. "Manufacturing has benefited from exports to emerging markets. The more resilient those economies are, the better it is for U.S. manufacturing."

Higher output means more workers are going to work in more factories. Keep workers protected from hazards by following standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) including the use of safety products such as hard hats, work gloves, and safety glasses.

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