Manufacturing production edged up 0.1% in March, according a report released on April 16 by the Federal Reserve. This follows a decrease of 0.5% in February.
However looking at the first quarter as a whole it declined by 0.5%. "This confirms a mild recession that started in the fall of 2007," said Thomas Duesterberg, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI. "The decline is led by housing-related sectors such as construction supplies (down 6.8% on an annual basis) and appliances and furniture (down 7.9%), and by the strike-weakened auto sector (down 5.3%). Business equipment, led by the information processing sector, and by the strong aerospace sector (up 7.2%), managed to grow at a 4.4% annual rate in the quarter, showing that strength from exports and some signs of life in business investment may keep the recession a mild one until growth returns."
Industrial production rose 0.3% in March after having dropped 0.7% in February. For the first quarter as a whole, output declined at an annual rate of 0.1% after edging up at a rate of 0.4% in the fourth quarter of last year.
The factory operating rate edged down 0.1 percentage point in March, to 78.5%, a level 1.2 percentage points below its 1972-2007 average.
The production of durable goods slipped 0.1%; excluding motor vehicles and parts and the output of durables advanced 0.7%. Primary metals and machinery were the only other durable goods industries that posted declines. The production of nondurables edged up 0.2%. Advances in the output of food, beverage, and tobacco products; textile and product mills; paper; printing and support; and chemicals outweighed declines in apparel and leather, petroleum and coal products, and plastics and rubber products.
The capacity utilization rate for total industry in March rose 0.2 percentage point, to 80.5%.