U.S. Industrial Production Gains for First Time in 9 Months

Manufacturing gained 1% due to increased auto production.

Industrial production jumped 0.5% in July, official data showed on August 14 in a sign of the manufacturing sector emerging from recession.

The Federal Reserve report noted that "aside from a hurricane-related rebound in October 2008, the gain in July marked the first monthly increase since December 2007."

Manufacturing output advanced 1% in July, with much of the increase due to a jump in the auto sector -- which built cars at an annual rate of 5.9 million units in the month, compared with 4.1 million units in June.

Excluding motor vehicles and parts, manufacturing production edged up .2%.

We are encouraged by the July industrial production report and the other green shoots that suggest that the manufacturing sector recession is finally bottoming out, said Daniel J. Meckstroth, Chief Economist for the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI. We believe an uneven and relatively modest pace of recovery is likely, but with an unemployment rate of 12.4% for manufacturing workers and near record low factory usage, the important point is that there was a change in direction towards improvement in business conditions."

The output of utilities fell 2.4%, reflecting unseasonably mild temperatures in July, and the output of mines increased 0.8%.

Despite the rise, total industrial production was 13.1% below its level of a year earlier.

Capacity utilization, a measure of slack in the factory sector, edged up four-tenths of a point in July to 68.5%, a level 12.4 percentage points below its 1972-2008 average, the Federal Reserve said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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