A newly released report from the U.S. Federal Reserve showed industrial production in the United States inched upward by 0.2 percent in August, following on the heels of a 0.9 percent uptick in July. Although the increase was modest, the good news is production indexes for most major market groups moved up during the month.
Following are some highlights of the report:
Consumer durables recorded an increase of 1.3 percent largely because of further gains in automotive products. The production indexes for home electronics and for appliances, furniture, and carpeting both edged up, while the output of miscellaneous goods slipped. The output of nondurable consumer goods declined 0.1 percent: A decrease in residential sales by utilities more than offset increases in the production of consumer fuels and of non-energy nondurables. The output of non-energy nondurables has been little changed, on net, over the past year, as a gain for chemical products has about offset lower output for paper products, clothing, and foods and tobacco.
The production of business equipment rose 0.7 percent in August and has gained 9.4 percent in the past 12 months. The index for transit equipment moved up 1.6 percent, boosted by higher output of civilian aircraft, and the index for information processing equipment increased 1.1 percent. The production of industrial and other equipment was little changed for a second month; however, the index has increased 7.7 percent over the past 12 months. Meanwhile, the index for defense and space equipment increased 1.5 percent in August, its largest uptick in more than a year.
The output of construction supplies decreased 0.2 percent in last month after having climbed 0.9 percent in July. Over the past 12 months, the index for construction supplies has moved up 4.2 percent. Nevertheless, the index in August was more than 20 percent below its average level in 2007. In the category of business supplies, production decreased 0.4 percent in last month after having increased 0.9 percent in July.
The production of materials to be further processed in the industrial sector edged up 0.1 percent in August after having posted a gain of 0.9 percent in July.
The production index for durable goods manufacturing rose 0.8 percent in August, after having gained 0.9 percent in July. Among the major durable goods industries, gains of 1.0 percent or more were recorded in August in primary metals; computer and electronic products; electrical equipment, appliances, and components; motor vehicles and parts; aerospace and miscellaneous transportation equipment; and furniture and related products. Although motor vehicle and parts production increased an average of 3.1 percent in July and August, the category has not yet returned to its level prior to the supply chain disruptions that resulted from the earthquake in Japan. Meanwhile, decreases in production in August were recorded in wood products, nonmetallic mineral products, and machinery.
The production index for mining increased 1.2 percent in August, primarily as a result of gains for crude oil, natural gas, and coal. Capacity utilization in mining rose to 90.8 percent, a rate 3.4 percentage points above its long-run average. Capacity utilization rates at industries grouped by stage of process were as follows: At the crude stage, utilization increased 0.5 percentage point to 88.1 percent, a rate 1.7 percentage points above its long-run average; at the primary and semifinished stages, utilization fell 0.3 percentage point to 74.4 percent, a rate 6.9 percentage points below its long-run average; and at the finished stage, utilization rose 0.4 percentage point to 76.4 percent, a rate 0.9 percentage point below its long-run average.
The complete August 2011 U.S. industrial production report is available online.