Durable goods orders jumped 3.63 percent in May, beating the consensus forecast that called for a 3 percent increase. In addition, April's increase in new orders was revised from 3.3 percent to 3.6 percent, the department said.
In May, factory orders climbed by $8 billion to $231 billion.
With May's increase, new orders have now increased for three of the past four months.
The big jump was in transportation orders, which rose 10.2 percent or by $6.9 billion to $74.3 billion, most of that made up of new orders for commercial planes, which rose by $6.3 billion.
The concentration of orders in one sector takes off some of the shine from the positive report. Without transportation orders included, durable goods orders rose only 0.7 percent.
Shipments of durable goods, up for three of the past four months, rose by 1.2 percent to $229.7 billion. Transportation, again, supplied most of the build up, rising 3.6 percent to $69.3 billion.
Unfilled orders, also up three of the past four months, rose by 0.8 percent to 1.004 trillion.
Orders for non-defense capital goods also rose, climbing 9.3 percent to $83.5 billion after a 3.3 percent rise in April.
New orders for capital goods, a closely-watched category including machinery used by businesses, including farm tractors, printing presses, and mining equipment, is seen as a sign of optimism among business owners.