INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION AND CAPACITY UTILIZATION
Industrial production rose 0.1 percent in April after a revised 0.3 percent increase in March and declines in February and January. In manufacturing, production rose 0.3 percent after two months of declines; manufacturing output was still below its December level. The output of mines decreased 0.2, and the output of utilities decreased 1.9 percent. At 127.8 percent of its 1992 average, total industrial production in April was 3.8 percent higher than it was in April 1997. The rate of industrial capacity utilization decreased 0.3 percentage point in April, to 81.9 percent.
The production of consumer goods remained flat in April: The output of durable goods rose 0.9 percent, and the output of non-energy nondurable goods edged up, but these increases were offset by a 1.7 percent decline in the production of energy goods, most notably in residential sales of electricity and gas. The production increase within the durable consumer goods category was widespread. The output of automotive products advanced 0.8 percent but remained well below the high at the end of last year. Home computing equipment, appliances, and carpeting also posted significant gains. Within the non-energy nondurable consumer goods category, the strength in food products was nearly offset by declines in the production of cigarettes, clothing, consumer chemicals, and paper products.
The output of business equipment increased 1.0 percent; a second month of strong gains after having slowed earlier in the year. Although the output of computers accelerated in the first quarter, the output of most other types of equipment slowed. The April increase resulted from gains in most groups other than industrial equipment, in which output declined 0.7 percent.
The production of construction supplies declined for a second consecutive month. However, its April level remained well above its level at the end of last year. The output of materials stayed unchanged continuing its sluggish behavior of recent months. While the production of durable materials edged up in April, the output of nondurable and energy materials decreased. Among durable goods materials, the output of parts for consumer goods, which had spiked up in the fourth quarter, decreased 0.3 percent after a substantial decline in the first quarter. The output of equipment parts grew once more at a moderate rate; semiconductors and parts for computers and electronic communication equipment posted the most significant gains.
Durable goods production increased 0.4 percent after having posted a small gain in March and declines earlier in the year. Increases in lumber, furniture and fixtures, computer and office equipment, semiconductors, motor vehicles and parts, and instruments were just partially offset by weakness elsewhere. In particular, the output of primary and fabricated metals and of aircraft and parts declined once more. Nondurable goods production increased 0.2 percent and is just 1.6 percent above its level in April 1997. Continuing weaknesses in the production of tobacco, textiles, apparel, paper, and chemicals were more than offset by strength in other industries; the largest gain came in rubber and plastics products.
The operating rate in manufacturing declined to 80.8 percent. The utilization rate in advanced-processing industries remained flat at a low level, while the rate for primary-processing industries fell for the fourth consecutive month. The operating rate in advanced-processing industries was 1.4 percentage points below its long-run average, whereas the utilization rate in primary-processing industries was still significantly above its long-run average.
G.17 Release Tables: