Rise in car production helps US manufacturing figures

Factories continuing to rebound toward pre-pandemic output and strength

US production of motor vehicles and parts jumped 5.3 per cent per cent the first increase in four months. Photograph: Reuters

US production of motor vehicles and parts jumped 5.3 per cent per cent the first increase in four months. Photograph: Reuters

 

US manufacturing output rose by more than forecast in November thanks to a boost in car production, helping factories continue to rebound toward their pre-pandemic capacity and strength.

Output at factories increased 0.8 per cent from the prior month after an upwardly revised 1.1 per cent gain in October, according to Federal Reserve data on Tuesday that compared with economists’ estimates for a 0.4 per cent rise.

Total industrial production, which also includes mining and utility output, advanced 0.4 per cent in November after a 0.9 per cent increase a month earlier.

Production of motor vehicles and parts jumped 5.3 per cent , the first increase in four months. Excluding car production, factory output increased 0.4 per cent. Manufacturing has been on a steady, albeit gradual, path to recovery since the pandemic upended production and supply chains in March and April.

A separate report on Tuesday showed manufacturing in New York state expanded at a modest pace in December, though companies remained optimistic about future business conditions.

While growth may decelerate as the surge in Covid-19 cases weighs on the economy, still-lean inventories paired with solid demand for goods will continue to support the industry.

Even with the latest improvement, the Fed’s index of manufacturing remains about 3.6 per cent below its February level. Employment in the sector has improved for seven straight months, though manufacturing payrolls are about 600,000 lower than before the pandemic.

Manufacturing capacity utilisation rose to 72.6 per cent from 72 per cent, while total capacity utilisation, including factories, mines and utilities, increased to 73.3 per cent.

That rate compares with 76.9 per cent in February. Unused capacity weighs on corporate profits because capital is underutilised. Utility output fell 4.3 per cent in November on lower-than-usual demand for heating because of warmer temperatures. Mining output increased 2.3 per cent.