Factory production rose 0.2 percent in April, but it wasn’t enough to offset the drag on manufacturing caused by slowdowns in the automotive arena. Manufacturing production fell 0.4 percent after rising for nine consecutive months, mainly because of parts shortages that resulted from the earthquake in Japan. Total motor vehicle assemblies dropped from an annual rate of 9 million units in March to 7.9 million units in April.

Following are some highlights from the monthly U.S. industrial production report:

Industry Groups

The production index for durable goods dropped 1 percent in April. The output of motor vehicles and parts fell 8.9 percent after increasing 3.6 percent in March. In addition, in April, significant losses in output were recorded in the following industries: primary metals; electrical equipment, appliances, and components; and furniture and related products. Durable goods industries with gains in output included nonmetallic mineral products, fabricated metal products, machinery, computer and electronic products, and aerospace and miscellaneous transportation equipment.

The production of nondurables edged up 0.1 percent in April after advancing 0.5 percent in March. In April, decreases for paper products and for petroleum and coal products were more than offset by gains for all other categories, with increases of nearly 1 percent or more for textile and product mills, apparel and leather, and printing and support.

Mining output rose 0.8 percent last month, with gains in oil and gas extraction, in support activity for mining, and in coal mining more than offsetting decreases in metal ore mining and in nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying.

Capacity utilization rates in April for industries grouped by stage of process were as follows: At the crude stage, utilization increased 0.4 percentage point to 87.0 percent, a rate 0.6 percentage point above its long-run (1972 to 2010) average; at the primary and semifinished stages, utilization moved up 0.1 percentage point to 74.5 percent, a rate 6.8 percentage points below its long-run average. At the finished stage, utilization fell 0.5 percentage point to 75.6 percent, a rate 1.7 percentage points below its long-run average.

Market Groups

The production of consumer goods decreased 0.7 percent in April because of weakness in the output of consumer durable goods. The index for consumer durable goods fell 4.4 percent, while the index for consumer nondurables rose 0.3 percent. Within the durables category, the output of automotive products dropped 7.0 percent, and the output of appliances, furniture, and carpeting fell 4.2 percent. The index for miscellaneous consumer durables recorded a decrease of 0.2 percent, while the index for home electronics increased 0.7 percent. The output of non-energy nondurable goods rose 0.6 percent, with gains in all of its main components. The output of consumer energy products declined 0.5 percent.

The index for business equipment fell 0.4 percent in April following a loss of 0.5 percent in March. Within business equipment in April, the output of transit equipment decreased 3.6 percent as a result of the large drop in motor vehicle assemblies; the production of most other types of transit equipment, particularly civilian aircraft, advanced substantially. The index for industrial and other equipment gained 0.7 percent, while the index for information processing equipment was unchanged. Despite a second consecutive monthly decrease in business equipment, the index in April was 9.9 percent above its level 12 months earlier.

The production index for defense and space equipment was unchanged in April after decreasing 0.3 percent in the previous month. Output in April was 1.4 percent above its year-earlier level.

The complete April U.S. Industrial Report is available online.