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Economy in Brief

Industrial Production Continues To Rise
by Tom Moeller May 14,2010

The industrial sector continued its improvement last month. Overall production rose 0.8% after a 0.3% March increase. It's up at a 6.4% annual rate so far this year. Though these gains are improved, they understate the degree of improvement following last year's recession. In the factory sector alone output rose 1.0% during the last two months and it has risen at a 9.1% rate so far this year.

Though gains in output this year have been broad-based, the rise in output of construction supplies and business equipment have been notable. Output of construction supplies has risen at a 20.1% (AR) in 2010 after last year's 17.8% decline. Nevertheless, output remained off 24% from the 2006 peak. Business equipment likewise has been strong with a 12.7% gain so far this year after the 12.4% 2009 drop. Output remained off 12% from the 2008 peak.

Elsewhere, output of consumer goods has posted a lesser gain of 1.8% so far this year held back by 4.1% rise in output of auto products and a 1.1% gain in output of computers, video and equipment. Output of appliances and furniture rose at a stronger 19.6% rate but here again the production level remains depressed and off one-third from the 2006 peak. Apparel output also posted a strong 20.2% gain this year after a 12.4% decline during 2009. Nevertheless, it's off two-thirds from 1994 as production has moved out of the States.

Capacity utilization rose further to 73.7%, its highest level since November 2008. In the factory sector alone utilization rose to 70.8% from the 2009 low of 65.1%.

The industrial production data are available in Haver's USECON database.

Industrial Production (SA,%) April March February y/y 2009 2008 2007
Total Output 0.8 0.3 -0.2 5.2 -9.7 -2.2 1.5
  Manufacturing 1.0 1.0 0.0 6.0 -11.3 -3.2 1.4
    Consumer Goods 0.2 0.1 -1.3 3.8 -5.2 -2.6 0.9
    Business Equipment 1.1 1.2 0.3 6.1 -12.4 -1.1 2.7
    Construction Supplies 2.7 2.8 -0.6 2.8 -17.8 -6.3 -2.0
    Materials 1.0 0.0 0.7 7.0 -10.9 -1.9 2.0
  Utilities -1.3 -6.0 -1.7 -2.5 -2.5 0.3 3.4
Capacity Utilization (%) 73.7 73.1 73.8 69.2 (April '09) 70.1 77.5 80.6
   Factory Utilization 70.8 70.0 69.2 65.8 66.8 75.1 79.0
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