How things shook out in April:
Output by U.S. factories, mines, and utilities fell by 0.5% during the month, after revised declines of 1.7% in March and 1% in February, the Federal Reserve reported. Analysts expected a drop of 0.6% in April. Still, the report shows that U.S. industry remains weak. Industrial production has fallen in 15 of the 17 months since the recession began in December 2007, and is down 16% since then. That has led industrial companies to idle more of their plants and equipment. (The overall operating rate for factories, mines, and utilities fell to 69.1% last month from a revised 69.4% in March. That's the lowest rate on record dating to 1967.)
Mining output dropped 3.2% as oil and gas production fell, while utilities boosted their output 0.4%. Manufacturing production fell 0.3%, as the factory operating rate dipped to 65.7% from 65.8%. That's the lowest on record dating to 1948.
Surprisingly, auto factories actually increased production 1.4% after cutting back sharply in January. But the increase isn't expected to continue as Chrysler LLC and General Motors Corp. are closing plants in May and June.