Manufacturing production stagnated in November, with output unchanged for the month following a gain of 0.3 percent in October. These data continue to reflect sluggish activity for the manufacturing sector, which continues to grapple with global weaknesses and lower commodity prices. The most recent NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey echoed those anxieties, with sentiment easing significantly over the past 12 months and hiring and capital spending pulling back materially. Indeed, manufacturing production increased just 0.9 percent year-over-year in November, off sharply from the 4.3 percent pace observed in January. Capacity utilization for manufacturers edged slightly lower for the month, as well, down from 76.3 percent to 76.2 percent.
The underlying manufacturing numbers for November were mixed on a sector-by-sector basis. Output for nondurable goods firms rose 0.5 percent in November, rebounding from being flat in October. In contrast, durable goods manufacturing production shifted from a gain of 0.6 percent in October to a decline of 0.2 percent in November.
The largest gains in manufacturing output for the month were seen in the nonmetallic mineral products (up 1.2 percent), food, beverage and tobacco products (up 1.0 percent), computer and electronic products (up 0.7 percent) and miscellaneous durable goods (up 0.7 percent) sectors. At the same time, primary metals (down 2.8 percent), apparel and leather (down 1.3 percent), electrical equipment and appliances (down 1.3 percent), motor vehicles and parts (down 1.0 percent) and aerospace and miscellaneous transportation equipment (down 0.7 percent) experienced declining production in November.
Meanwhile, total industrial production fell for the third straight month, down 0.6 percent in November. This headline number was brought lower in the month by sharp production declines for both mining (down 1.1 percent) and utilities (down 4.3 percent). Over the course of the past 12 months, industrial production has decreased by 1.2 percent. This represents a significant change from the 4.5 percent rate of year-over-year growth seen in January. Along those lines, capacity utilization fell from 77.5 percent to 77.0 percent, its lowest level in two years.