Manufacturing activity in the Midwest picked up in December, according to the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank. The Midwest Manufacturing Index rose 0.7 percent from 94.1 in November to 94.7 in December. This was the second consecutive month of improving numbers.

The largest gain in December was seen in the auto sector, up 1.5 percent. This builds on the 4.0 percent gain in November and is a sign that the motor vehicle segment is recovering from some weaker months in the fall. Steel production was also higher, up 0.7 percent, but machinery and resource activity was down 0.3 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively.

For the year of 2012, the Midwest District experienced a 6.2 percent increase in manufacturing production, making it one of the brighter spots in the country for activity last year. The bulk of that stemmed from higher auto production, up 16.8 percent. Meanwhile, steel, machinery, and resource manufacturers experienced 3.3 percent, 1.0 percent, and 0.4 percent gains in activity, respectively, in 2012.

Chad Moutray is the chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.

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