The holiday season is boosting employment in transportation, shipping, and other areas,  even as activity in the nation's factories eases. Here's a look at this week's economic developments and how they may impact your business.

Manufacturing Slows, Services Rise

After gains in September, new factory orders dropped 4.7 percent in October to $390.3 billion, the sharpest decline in more than six years, the Commerce Department reported on Tuesday.

Orders for manufactured durable goods were down by 8.2 percent, and nondurable goods were down 0.3 percent, the report said.

By contrast, the service sector continued to grow in November to its highest level in five months, the Institute of Supply Management reported on Tuesday.

The ISM non-manufacturing index climbed to 58.9 percent from 57.1 percent in October, with gains in new orders and employment, the report said.

Productivity in the non-farm sector over the third quarter was revised upward to 0.2 percent from a previously reported zero gain, the Labor Department said Tuesday.

Despite the revision, productivity as grown by just 1.4 percent in the past 12 months, the slowest pace in nearly a decade, the department said.

Pending Home Sales Down

Pending home sales fell 1.7 percent in October, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.

The lower sales rate, which is based on contracts signed for existing home sales that are expected to close in coming months, remained above a cyclical low in July, the trade group said.

The results show the housing market is likely stabilizing after an "unsustainable boom" in recent years, David Lereah, the group's chief economist, said in a statement.

Employment Rising

The private-sector created 158,000 new jobs in November following three months of slower growth, according to a national report released Wednesday by ADP, a Roseland, N.J.-based employment-services firm.

The gains, which were based on payroll data from some 250,000 businesses in range of private-sector industries, suggest a "modest acceleration of employment in November," the report said.

Over the previous three months, the private sector added an average 104,000 new jobs per months, the report said.

Online recruiting also gained traction in November as employers rushed to complete year-end hiring efforts, Monster Worldwide reported Thursday.

Based on recruitment activity on more than 1,500 websites, the Monster Employment Index for November rose three points to 175 -- its highest level since the online job board began tracking Web-based job ads in October 2003, the report said.

The gains also reflected a higher demand for seasonal jobs in holiday-related industries, such as transportation, shipping, and warehousing, the report said.

Yet, on a year-over-year basis, online job demand grew by only 17.4 percent, its weakest pace in three years, the report said.

The slower pace was "clearly in line with other indicators showing a broader U.S. economic slowdown," Steve Pogorzeiski, a group president at Monster, said in a statement.

Jobless Claims Down

New claims for unemployment benefits fell by 34,000 to 324,000 in the week ending Dec. 2, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The national insured unemployment rate at the end of November was 1.9 percent, the report said.

The largest decreases last week were in California, Illinois, and Florida, while the largest increases were in Wisconsin, Texas, and Indiana, the report said.