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My day got away from me yesterday, so I couldn’t finish up my report on that morning’s Federal Reserve’s newest U.S. manufacturing production figures (for March) till now. But they’re worth examining in detail because although they’re the first such data to be released since the Ukraine war broke out and began disrupting global supply chains for important goods, they strongly resembled last month’s statistics – which were the final pre-war figures.

And just as interesting: Many of the results for individual industries illustrated strikingly the roller coaster ride on which much of domestic industry remains, with multi-month bests in particular coming right on the heels of multi-month worsts. Moreover, underscoring much of the uncertainty created by Ukraine-related tumult coming on top of (and in China’s case, alongside) CCP Virus-related tumult, some revisions of previous months’ readings were unusually large.

In inflation-adjusted terms, American manufacturing output grew 0.87 percent sequentially in March. The increase was powered largely by a 7.80 percent monthly jump in real output in the exceptionally volatile automotive sector. But even stripping out vehicles and parts production, price-adjusted manufacturing production improved by 0.40 percent in March.

In addition, revisions were mildly positive. February’s initially reported 1.20 percent constant dollar month-on-month production increase – the best such performance since last October’s 1.71 percent – was upgraded to 1.22 percent. January’s downwardly revised 0.03 percent improvement is now estimated at 0.11 percent. And December’s small dip was revised up again – from -0.06 percent to -005 percent.

Consequently, since the last full data month before the CCP Virus began roiling the U.S. economy (February, 2020), domestic manufacturing has expanded by 4.42 percent – up from the 3.37 percent calculable last month.

At the same time, U.S.-based industry is still 2.91 percent smaller than at its all-time peak – reached just before the Great Recession in December, 2007 – although that’s up from the 3.88 percent deficit calculable last month.

March’s biggest manufacturing production winners were:

>automotive, as mentioned above. That was the biggest sequential gain since last October’s 10.64 percent, but it follows a February drop that’s been downgraded from 3.55 percent to 4.64 percent. And that was the worst monthly figure since last September’s 6.32 percent. All these (and previous) ups and downs left after-inflation vehicle and parts production 3.50 percent below their immediate pre-pandemic (February, 2020) levels;

>aerospace and miscellaneous transportation, where after-inflation production rose by 1.90 percent on month. The February advance, was downgraded substantially, from 3.22 percent to 1.64 percent, leaving the March increase the biggest since last July’s 4.21 percent. These industries are now 16.43 percent larger in real terms than in February, 2020;

>electrical equipment, appliances and components’ price-adjusted production climbed 1.03 percent sequentially and February’s increase was revised all the way up from 0.48 pecent to 1.95 percent– best since last July’s 3.24 percent. Inflation-adjusted output in these sectors is now 5.55 percent above thei February, 2020 levels; and

>plastics and rubber products, which displayed a similar pattern. Real output was up 1.14 percent sequentially in March, and February’s results were more than doubled – from +1.46 percent to +3.14 percent. That burst – the best since August, 2020’s 3.85 percent – left constant dollar production for these industries 3.56 percent greater than in immediate pre-pandemic-y February. 2020

In addition machinery, which is such a bellwether for both the rest of industry and the entire economy because of the widespread use of its products, price-adjusted output in March improved by 0.78 percent over February’s results. And although the February improvement was downgraded from 0.78 percent to 0.54 percent, after-inflation machinery production is still up 8.29 percent since February, 2020.

The biggest March manufacturing growth losers were:

>non-metallic mineral products, whose 1.15 percent March monthly decline was the worst such figure since last May’s 2.29 percent decrease. But this drop-off followed a February monthly surge that was upgraded from 3.46 percent to 3.94 percent – the .best such showing the 4.34 percent of June, 2020 – early in the recovery from the deep economic downturn triggered by the first wave of the CCP Virus and related lockdowns and behavioral curbs. Real output in this sector has now risen by 3.28 percent since February. 2020;

>primary metals, where similarly. March’s 1.69 percent fall was the biggest since January’s 2.46 percent drop – and followed a February 2.26 percent increase that was upgraded from the previously reported 2.10 percent and represented the best monthly performance last April’s 3.48 percent. Primary metals inflation-adjusted output is now 1.16 greater than in Februrary, 2020;

>furniture and related products’ after-inflation production sank by 1.51 percent from February to March – the worst such figure since February, 2021’s 3.21 drop. But March’s lousy results followed a February increase that was also more than doubled – from 2.52 percent to a 5.63 jump that was this sector’s best since June 2020’s 5.66 percent. These results brought real output in furniture and related products to within 0.80 percent of its immediate, February, 2020 pre-pndemic level;

>textiles’ 1.46 percent monthly March real output decrease was its worst monthly result since January’s 2.30 percent drop. But it, too, followed a strong February. That month’s improvement was upgraded from 0.03 percent to 0.97 percent – the biggest monthl increase since September’s 1.36 percent. Yet in real terms, the industry is still 5.84 percent smaller than in February. 2020;

>and printing and related support activities. It’s 1.10 percent March sequential after-inflation output retreat was also its worst since January’s 2.16 percent decrease. But it, too, followed a strong February. Indeed, that months’ inflation-adjusted production increase was revised up from 1.66 percent to 2.66 percent – its best such performance since last May’s 2.75 percent rise. This cluster, though, has still shrunk by 4.69 percent in constant dollar terms since February. 2020.

Growth was solid, too, in industries that consistently have made headlines during the pandemic.

In the aircraft and aircraft parts sector, real production increased in March by 2.31 percent. Because February’s initially reported 2.52 percent monthly rise was marked all the way down to 1.13 percent, the March figure became these industries’ best since last July’s 3.44 percent (which I mistakenly reported last month was an August total). January’s results were downgraded, too – and for a second time, to 0.91 percent. But the sector is still 15.86 percent bigger than it was after inflation than in February, 2020.

The big pharmaceuticals and medicines sector turned in a more mixed performance. March’s 1.17 percent price-adjusted monthly production increase was the best such total since last August’s 2.39 percent. But February’s initially reported 1.08 percent gain is now reported as a 1.15 percent loss. January’s constant dollar production change, however, was revised up from a 0.14 percent drop to a 0.45 percent increase. All told, pharamaceuticals and medicines production is 14.75 percent higher afte inflation than in February, 2020.

But the news was unambiguously good in the medical equipment and supplies sector that contains so many of the products needed to fight the pandemic. The March inflation-adjusted output improvement was 1.81 percent and February’s production growth was upgraded from 1.39 pecent to 1.73 percent. Further, the January after-inflation growth figures – which had already been revised up from 2.50 percent to 3.26 percent – was upgraded further to 3.28 percent. And a December result that was first reported as a decline of 2.75 percent is now estimated to be a dip of just 0.37 percent. All told, output in these sectors has increased by 10.80 percent since immediately pre-pandemic-y February, 2020.

And although the national and global semiconductor shortage persists, U.S. domestic production kept rising healthily. Output in March improved month-to-month by 1.99 percent adjusted for inflation, February’s initially reported rise of 1.96 percent was upgraded to 2.87 percent (the best such growth since April, 2017’s 3.78 percent), and January’s downwardly revised 0.37 percent sequential output decline was revised up to a 0.05 percent gain. As a result, semiconductor production is upfully 25.99 percent over its immediate pre-pandemic levels.

The March manufacturing production figures portray a domestic industry resilient enough to withstand not only pestilence but (so far) war and the beginnings of tighter Federal Reserve monetary policy aimed at slowing U.S. growth in the name of reducing  inflation. No one knows what catastrophes the future may hold, or how much more the aforementioned problems could worsen. But it’s looking like any force powerful enough to derail American manufacturing for long may need to be truly Biblical in its proportions.

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