The Midwest Manufacturing Index rose from 96.2 in February to 96.5 in March, continuing a longer trend upward over the course of the past few years. The report from the Chicago Federal Reserve Board indicates that manufacturing output has risen 6.4 percent over the past 12 months, faster than the 2.5 percent rate experienced nationally. Over the past 3 years, output has increased a whopping 27.6 percent, as the region rebounded from the recession.
The bulk of the rise in output in March and over the past year has come from the auto sector. Motor vehicle production increased 12.2 percent in March and 13.3 percent year-over-year. With that said, the March figure indicates a turnaround from the 0.1 percent decline in February.
The machinery and resource sectors had increased output of 0.1 percent and 0.4 percent for the month, respectively, with year-over-year rates of 2.5 percent and 3.4 percent. Meanwhile, the steel sector’s output declined by 1.1 percent in March, partially offsetting February’s 2.8 percent gain. For the year, steel production in the Midwest is up 4.3 percent.
Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.