ByJohn S. McClenahen In a relative sense, U.S. manufacturing turned in a better performance in March than did U.S. industrial production as a whole. Federal Reserve data released April 16 show no change in U.S. factory output between February and March of this year, while overall industrial production, which includes mining and utilities in addition to manufacturing, fell 0.2% following two months of substantial gains. "Even with the March pause, manufacturing grew at a strong annual rate of 5.8% in the first quarter [of 2004], following a robust 6.3% rise in the fourth quarter [of 2003]," emphasizes Jerry J. Jasinowski, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Manufacturers. "The last time manufacturing grew in excess of 5% over an entire six-month period was during the first half of 2000 just before the manufacturing recession began," notes Jasinowski. "It is clear that the manufacturing recovery is finally out of the box, and this time the recovery has legs." Although capacity utilization in manufacturing fell a tenth of a percentage point in March to 75.2%, the drop was greater among mining, down two-tenths of a percentage point to 85.4%, and utilities, down 2.2 percentage points to 84%.