Overall manufacturing output rose 0.9% in March, after having edged up 0.2% in February. This movement was led by widespread gains among durable goods industries, according to the Federal Reserve Report.
The index for durable goods advanced 1.4% in March and rose 10.5% at an annual rate in the first quarter—the third consecutive quarterly increase. In fact, all major categories of durables strengthened during March, with most categories posting gains of more than 1%. For example, expansions of 2% or more were recorded for computer and electronic products, for motor vehicles and parts, and for furniture and related products.
By comparison, nondurable manufacturing advanced 0.5% and increased 4.8% at an annual rate in the first quarter—the third straight quarterly gain. The output of petroleum and coal products jumped 3% in March, while plastics and rubber products posted an increase of 1.7%. The indexes for food, beverage, and tobacco products and for apparel and leather recorded more moderate gains.
Capacity utilization for manufacturing moved up 0.6 percentage points in March to 70%, a rate 4.9 percentage points above its trough in June 2009. Meanwhile, mining output gained 2.3%, and capacity utilization rose to 90.2%, a rate 2.7 percentage points above its average for the period from 1972 to 2009. The gain in mining production mainly reflected increases in oil and gas well drilling, in stone, sand, and gravel quarrying, and in coal mining.
The output of consumer goods declined 0.2% in March. However, output in the first quarter rose at an annual rate of 4.9 %, and the index in March was 3.3 % above its year-earlier level, the Federal Reserve report showed. At the same time, the production of consumer durables strengthened by 2%; the output of non-energy nondurables moved up 0.2%; and the production of consumer energy products contracted 3.7%. All major categories of consumer durables advanced.
For the first quarter as a whole, the index for consumer durables expanded at an annual rate of 8.8%, as the index was supported by a further jump in automotive products. The index for business equipment expanded 1.4% in March; this index rose 13.2% at an annual rate for the first quarter. The quarterly gain was boosted by strength in the production of industrial and other equipment and of information processing equipment. Specifically, information processing equipment recorded an increase of 1.9% and was led by gains in the production of search and detection equipment and of measuring and controlling instruments. Transit equipment advanced 2.2%, but this rise followed five months of declines. Industrial and other equipment increased 0.8% during the month and gained 16.1% at an annual rate in the first quarter. The advance in the first quarter was this category’s largest gain since the fourth quarter of 1987.
In other categories, the production of defense and space equipment rose 1.7% in March and climbed 8% at an annual rate for the first quarter. Within nonindustrial supplies, the output of construction supplies advanced 2.3% and increased 4.9% at an annual rate in the first quarter.
The index for materials was unchanged in March, according to the report. However, for the first quarter as a whole, this index rose at an annual rate of 9.2%. All three major categories of durables expanded, with consumer parts rising 1%, equipment parts strengthening 0.8%, and other durable materials advancing 2%. The output of nondurable materials was unchanged, while the index for energy materials receded 1.7% because of the decline in utilities.
The complete U.S. Industrial Report for March is available online.