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No one should have been surprised by this morning’s manufacturing output report from the Federal Reserve, which judged that industry’s inflation-adjusted production tumbled by 6.27 percent in March from February’s levels – which was revised downward slightly from a 0.12 percent gain from a 0.02 percent dip. In other words, “Thanks, China!” for the CCP Virus that’s caused an unprecedented shutdown of huge sections of the U.S. economy.

Lately, however, some manufacturing sectors of special concern have emerged – the healthcare goods sectors. And the results are below.

Unfortunately, the statistics in the relevant sectors aren’t very granular. In particular, they don’t enable us to distinguish between, say, masks and ventilators, or between final pharmaceutical products and vaccines, or between CAT-scan and MRI machines and non-medical high tech instruments. Still, the following sequential results must have some significance, given the overall skid in after-inflation manufacturing production. And for February-March, they are:

soaps, cleaning compound, & toilet preparation:      +1.85 percent

pharmaceuticals & medicines:                                  +0.50 percent

  (includes vaccines)

medical equipment & supplies:                                 -1.55 percent

  (includes everything from ventilators to facemasks)

Less helpful is learning that constant dollar output in a category called “navigational, measuring, electromedical and control instruments” decreased by 2.39 percent on month.

Keep in mind that since these data were compiled, all manner of manufacturing companies have volunteered, or been officially pressured, either to ramp up their existing healthcare goods production greatly, or to enter the field. So next month’s Fed industrial production report – for April – should be more revealing. For now, however, the March numbers don’t show much in the way of surge production.

Nor should anyone expect the Fed’s figures on manufacturing capacity and capacity utilization to shed much light on healthcare-related surge performance and surge capacity. The categories simply aren’t this detailed.

Maybe one of the CCP Virus-induced changes in government will be involve tracking healthcare-related manufacturing data in more detailed? Stay tuned. And send all such suggestions to

Jerome Powell, Chair, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 20th St. and Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.  20551