, , , , , , , ,

May’s Federal Reserve domestic U.S. manufacturing production figures presented a puzzling glass-half-empty-half-full picture. Overall sequential real output levels were down 0.63 percent – their worst such performance since July, 2013’s 1.06 percent decrease. Clearly playing a big role was a fire at a factory producing parts for especially popular pickup truck models, which helped depress after-inflation automotive production by 6.45 percent – its worst such performance since April, 2011’s 7.91 percent plummet.

Yet stripped of automotive’s woes, inflation-adjusted manufacturing output was still down 0.18 percent on month in May, and the month’s decline represented the third such fall-off in the last five months. Largely as a result, industry’s annual constant dollar production increase improved in May by just 1.85 percent – the slowest such rate since January’s 1.10 percent. The automotive decline helped drag down monthly production in the durable goods super-sector by 1.16 percent in price-adjusted terms – the biggest such decrease since July, 2013’s 1.42 percent. Real output in the smaller non-durable goods super-sector was off only 0.08 percent in May.

After-inflation manufacturing output is still down 3.85 percent since the start of the last recession – more than eleven years ago.

Here are the manufacturing highlights of the Federal Reserve’s release Friday on May industrial production:

>May’s Federal Reserve industrial production figures contained evidence for both optimism and pessimism about the U.S. economy and its domestic manufacturing sector.

>Optimists could reasonably blame much of the 0.63 percent sequential drop in real manufacturing output – the worst monthly decrease since July, 2013’s 1.06 percent decline – on a fire at a factory providing parts for popular U.S. pickup truck models.

>And indeed, the May overall manufacturing production swoon was led by a 6.45 percent on-month plunge in motor vehicle and parts output – the worst such performance since April, 2011’s 7.91 percent.

>But pessimists could note that even counting the automotive effect, the rest of domestic manufacturing posted a 0.18 percent dip in monthly inflation-adjusted output – the third such shrinkage in five months.

>Largely as a result, manufacturing’s annual growth rate in May was down to 1.85 percent – its weakest since January’s 1.10 percent. Between the previous Mays, real manufacturing production expanded by 1.87 percent.

>Automotive’s troubles also showed up in the results for the durable goods super-sector in which it’s found. Durable goods’ after-inflation production sank by 1.16 percent sequentially in May – its worst such performance since July, 2013’s 1.42 percent plummet.

>In addition, its 1.97 percent constant dollar May annual growth rate was durable goods’ slowest since January’s 0.94 percent. Between the previous Mays, price-adjusted durable goods production advanced by 2.18 percent.

>Inflation-adjusted output held up better in the smaller non-durables super-sector in May. Its monthly production slipped by just 0.08 percent.

>On-year in May, non-durables’ real production rose by 1.73 percent. As with durable goods, this growth rate is the slowest since January (1.28 percent), but the deceleration has been smaller. Moreover, this year’s May annual production rate for non-durables was better than that for the previous Mays (1.57 percent).

>Revisions for overall real manufacturing production were slightly negative. April’s previously 0.47 percent monthly increase was upgraded to 0.57 percent. March’s already downgraded 0.02 percent rise was downgraded to a 0.11 percent decline. And February’s downwardly revised 1.40 percent increase was bumped down again to 1.39 percent.

>Largely as a result, in price-adjusted terms, domestic manufacturing’s production is now 3.85 percent lower than at the onset of the Great Recession – more than eleven years ago, at the end of 2007.

>After-inflation durable goods output is now 0.10 percent below the levels it hit in December, 2007, and 0.13 percent less than in January, 2008 (its last actual peak).

>Despite their recent out-performance, the non-durables sector has fared much worse since the last recession hit. Its constant dollar output is down fully 8.35 percent from its previous peak, which came in July, 2007.