The Federal Reserve said that manufacturing production fell for the second time in the past three months, down 0.4 percent in May. After rebounding strongly in April, up 1.1 percent, this latest figure is a bit of a disappointment, suggesting a softening of activity following recent progress. Motor vehicles and parts production led the decline in May, down 2.0 percent for the month and off 1.5 percent year to date, as automotive demand has continued to be weaker than desired so far in 2017. Despite the easing in this latest release and some lingering challenges, the underlying data remain consistent with a manufacturing sector that has turned a corner and has moved in the right direction, especially relative to where it stood at this point last year.
Manufacturing production has risen 1.4 percent over the past 12 months, down from 1.6 percent in the previous report. Yet, it was the seventh consecutive positive year-over-year reading for manufacturing output and definite progress from the 0.3 percent year-over-year decline in May 2016. Similarly, manufacturing capacity utilization declined from 75.8 percent in April to 75.5 percent in May. For comparison purposes, utilization in the sector was 75.0 percent one year ago.