The 2020 Mid-Year Economic Update_long

Industrial Output Declines in September

percentage point above its 1972-2005 average. By stage of process, the operating rate for industries at the crude stage climbed 0.2 percentage point, to 89.0%. In contrast, the operating rate for industries at the primary and semifinished stages fell 1 percentage point, to 82.6%, just 0.5 percentage point above the long-run average for this group. The operating rate for industries at the finished stage moved down 0.4 percentage point, to 79.6%.

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Industrial production decreased 0.6% in September after having been unchanged in August. For the third quarter as a whole, industrial production rose at an annual rate of 3.6%, down from the rapid pace of gains in the previous three quarters. Nonetheless, production at the end of the quarter was about 5-1/2% above its year-earlier level. Output in the manufacturing sector declined 0.3% in September, a decrease that slightly more than reversed its upwardly revised gain of 0.2% in August. The output of utilities plunged 4.4% in September, while the output at mines expanded 0.7%.


Capacity utilization for total industry declined 0.6 percentage point, to 81.9%. Even so, this rate of capacity utilization was higher than the rates recorded from mid-2000 to early 2006.


Market Groups
Production in all major market groups declined between August and September. The output of consumer goods fell 0.9%; the decrease was led by a weather-related pullback in the output of consumer energy products and by a drop of 1.8% in the output of  consumer durables. Among durable consumer goods, the production indexes for automotive products and for appliances, furniture, and carpeting both fell about 2-1/2%. The production of miscellaneous durable goods edged down, while the output of home electronics rose 1.0%. The output of non-energy nondurable consumer goods posted a small gain, as a step-up in the production of foods and tobacco slightly more than offset lower output of chemical products and a second month of declines in the output of clothing and of paper products.


The output of business equipment slipped 0.2% in September. The production of industrial and other equipment fell 1.2%, which more than offset increases in the output of transit equipment and of information processing equipment. For the third quarter as a whole, business equipment rose 11.7% (annual rate), the fourth consecutive quarterly gain in excess of 10%. The output of defense and space equipment moved higher in September, but the increase for the quarter a gain of 3.9% (annual rate)–marked a third quarter of decelerating production.


The output of construction supplies declined for a second month, to a level about the same as that of four months earlier. The production of business supplies also moved lower for a second month. Materials output turned down in September after having been  unchanged in August; outside of equipment parts, which continued to climb steeply, all major categories of materials declined.


Industry Groups
The declines in manufacturing production during September were broadly based. Durable manufacturing production decreased 0.4%. Industries for which output fell 1% or more included wood products, nonmetallic mineral products, machinery, motor vehicles and parts, furniture and related products, and electrical equipment, appliances, and components.


Primary metals declined 0.5%, and fabricated metal products edged down 0.1%. In contrast, the output of computer and electronic products increased 1.1%, and the output indexes for aerospace and miscellaneous transportation equipment and for miscellaneous manufacturing both posted gains of 0.5%. Nondurable manufacturing edged down 0.2%, as the output of chemicals, plastics and rubber products, textile and product mills, and apparel and leather all decreased significantly. However, the output of petroleum and coal products turned up sharply, and the production of food, beverage, and tobacco products advanced.


Mining output also turned up in September and increased 1.8% (annual rate) for the third quarter as a whole. The increase in September reflected a higher rate of crude oil extraction as well as a pickup in mined construction supplies, such as stone, sand, and gravel.


In September, the manufacturing utilization rate declined 0.4 percentage point, to 80.8%, a rate that is 1

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