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Just as it’s looking like the U.S. economy as a whole may have skirted the danger of a near-term recession, domestic American manufacturing saw a revival of its fortunes last month, according to yesterday morning’s latest official report on its after-inflation output in July.

Following two consecutive months of falling real production, U.S.-based industry grew by 0.74 percent in price-adjusted terms sequentially last month – its best such performance since March’s 0.74 percent. Revisions were mixed but modest.

These new figures mean that constant dollar U.S. manufacturing output is now 3.69 percent greater than in February, 2020, the last month before the CCP virus and assorted mandatory and voluntay burbs on economic behavior triggered a steep but brief recession and began distorting the economy. As of June’s release, domestic manufacturing had grown by an inflation-adjusted 2.98 percent since then.

Among the broadest manufacturing sub-sectors tracked by the Fed were:

>the automotive industry, whose volatility fueled many of U.S.-based manufacturing’s ups and downs earlier during the pandemic, boosted its real output by 6.60 percent on month – and this burst was only its best such result since March’s 9.04 percent. Revisions here were generally negative, with June’s initially reported monthly loss of 1.49 percent revised up to one of 1.27 percent, but May’s results downgraded again to a drop of 1.92 percent, and April’s originally reported gain of 3.92 percent is pegged at 2.98 percent. All told, though, vehicle and parts production -though still dealing with semiconductor shortages – once again rose back above its immediate pre-pandemic level by 4.73 percent. As of last month, it was still down by 1.07 percent;

>fabricated metal products, which lifted real output on month in July by 2.05 percent – its best such result since February’s 2.49 percent. Revisions were mixed, with June’s initially reported decline of -0.83 percent now estimated as a decrease of 1.40 percent, May’s initially reported shrinkage of 1.16 percent downgraded further to a 1.18 tumble before being upgraded to one of 1.02 percent, and April’s initially 0.85 percent rise previously revised down to a 0.46 percent advance before recovering to one of 0.65 percent. Inflation-adjusted production in this sector has now come to within 0.14 percent of its February, 2020 levels, as opposed to 2.11 percent below them calculable last month;

>aerospace & miscellaneous transportation equipment, where constant dollar production jumped 1.54 percent month-to-month, and where revisions were mixed, too. June’s initially reported fractional improvement is now judged to have been a dip of 0.14 percent, May’s advance estimate of a 0.85 percent decrease bouncing back from a downgrade to a 1.25 percent drop to one of 1.05 percent, and April’s initially reported 2.15 percent increase getting upgaded to one of 3.47 percent before settling back to one of 3.34 percent. In after-inflation terms, this cluster of industries is 21.30 percent bigger than just before the CCP Virus’ arrival in force, versus the 19.47 percent calculable last month; and

>apparel and leather goods, which recorded a second straight excellent growth month. July constant dollar production increased on month by 1.60 percent, and June’s initially reported 2.54 percent surge was revised all the way up to 6.09 percent – its best such result since the 8.04 percent recorded in August, 2020, when the economy’s recovery from the first virus wave was still underway. But May’s initially reported 0.88 percent price-adjusted output rise was revised down a second time – to a 0.24 percent dip. And April’s advance figure, a 0.18 percent climb, is now estimated to have been a 0.43 percent decrease. Still, thanks to the last two months’ results, this long-beleaguered sector has now grown in real terms by 5.71 percent, as opposed to the 0.56 percent calculable last month; and

July’s worst performing of the major sub-categories tracked by the Fed?

>printing and related support activities, where price-adjusted production sank by 1.67 percent on month. Revisions overall were positive, with June’s first reported loss of 2.16 percent revised up to one of 0.51 percent, May’s advance estimate of a 0.35 percent retreat upgraded a second time, to one of only 0.09 percent, and April’s initially reported 0.49 percent gain now standing at 0.69 percent. All the same, this group of companies still 10.50 percent smaller in real terms than it was in February, 2020, versus the11.37 figure calculable last month;

>furniture and related products,where real output sagged by 1.57 percent sequentially, the worst such result since the 2.77 percent decrease in February, 2021. Revisions on the whole were just as bad, with June’s initially reported fall-off of -0.55 percent now judged to have been one of 1.33 percent, May’s initially reported 0.94 increase (the biggest since this past February’s 4.75 percent pop) revised down second time to ai 0.99 decrease, and April’s initially reported -0.59 percent drop now pegged at a slightly smaller one of 0.41 percent. These results dragged down the furniture complex’s performance down to a 5.56 percent inflation-adjusted output shrinkage since immediately pre-pandemic-y February, 2020, versus a 0.91 percent decline calculable last month; and

>electrical equipment, appliances and components, where after-inflation production was off 1.41 percent from June’s levels. Revisions, though, were on the whole positive. June’s originally reported production increase of 1.34 percent was revised up to 1.42 percent (the best such performance since February’s 2.29 percent), May’s downgrade from an advance decrease of 1.83 percent to one of 2.35 percent was upgraded to a 1.93 percent retreat, and April’s initially reported -0.60 percent drop is now judged to have been a 0.57 percent advance. Yet constant dollar production in this cluster is now up only 4.83 percent over its last pre-pandemic reading, versus the 5.59 percent figure calculable last month.

As known by RealityChek regulars, the very big and diverse machinery sector is seen as a bellwether for both the rest of manufacturing and the rest of the entire economy, since so many industries use its products. So it’s encouraging to report that in July its companies notched their first monthly real output gain (0.50 percent) since April. Revisions, however, were overall sigificantly negative terrible. June’s initially reported 1.14 percent decrease is now pegged at 2.16 percent, and May was downwardly revised again to a 3.53 percent loss (the sector’s worst since the 18.64 percent collapse in April, 2020, during the worst of the economy’s pandemic-induced downturn). Only April broke the pattern even somewhat. Its initially reported 0.85 percent price-adjusted sequential output rise was upgraded all the way to 2.27 percent in May. It’s been downgraded since, but still stands at a 1.88 percent advance (the best since January’s 1.95 percent.

These results mean that wherewas last month, inflation-adjusted machinery production was up 4.70 percent during the pandemic era, now it’s only 2.82 percent higher.

The industries that consistently have made headlines during the pandemic performed well in July, too.

Measured in constant dollars, production by aircraft- and aircraft parts-makers was up 1.02 percent on month, but revisions were modesty negative. June’s initially reported after-inflation output growth of 0.26 percent is now pegged at only 0.18 percent, and May’s real production was unchanged at down 0.23 percent after having been downgraded from a 0.33 percent improvement. After having been upgraded twice, from an initially reported 1.67 percent advance to one of 3.13 percent, the April results dipped to a 2.96 percent rise. But this was still the best monthly result since January, 2021’s 8.60 percent surge). Nonetheless, the aircraft and parts sector is now 26.67 percent larger in real terms, since February, 2020 – up from the 25.58 percent figure calculable last month.

In the big pharmaceuticals and medicines industry, real production climbed on month by 0.29 percent n July and revisions were generally positive. June’s initially reported 0.39 percent increase was slightly downgraded to 0.32 percent, but after having its initially reported 0.42 percent increase was revised down to only 0.01 percent, it was upgraded all the way to a 1.20 percent improvement. And April’s initially reported -0.20 percent after-inflation monthly production dip was revised up a third time to a 0.08 percent increase. Due to these results, real output of aircraft and parts has now grown by 14.69 percent during the pandemic period, versus the 12.98 percent calculable last month.

Medical equipment and supplies firms (who make so many of the products used to fight the CCP Virus) enjoyed a banner July, expanding after inflation by 1.90 percent – its best such result since January’s 3.15 percent jump. June’s initially reported from 3.12 percent rise was downgraded to one of 1.01 percent, but after a downward revision from 1.44 percent real growth to 1.01 percent, May’s results wee revised back up to 1.66 percent, and after two straight upward revisions and one downward, April’s final (for now!) result is now judged to be 0.44 percent growth. But this cluster’s virus era inflation-adjusted production growth now stands at 16.15 percent versus the 17.27 percent calculable last month.

For the shortage-plagued semiconductor industry, price-adjusted output improved on month in July by 1.16 percent. Revisions were positive – but all over the place. June’s initially reported 0.18 percent rise is now pegged at 0.49 percent. But after a massive downgrade from 0.52 growth to 2.24 percent shrinkage, May’s performance is now recorded as a 0.37 gain. And the April sequential results are now as follows: down 1.85 percent, down 0.88 percent, down 2.71 percent, and down 2.68 percent – still the worst production month since the 11.26 percent plunge in December, 2008 – in the middle of the Great Recession that followed the global financial crisis. After all this movement, though, constant dollar semiconductor production is now up 21.98 percent since pre-pandemic-y February, 2020, up dramatically from the 15.22 percent calculable last month.

Even by pandemic-era standards, the outlook for domestic manufacturing looks unusually murky to me. The reasons for pessimism abound (like the near certainty of more growth-slowing monetary tightening by the Federal Reserve in order to tame inflation, darkening growth prospects in all of export-heavy manufacturing’s foreign markets, and continuing supply chain woes, industry’s still ginormous trade deficit). But so do reasons for (cautious) optimism (like U.S. unemployment at 50-year lows and all the personal spending this level supports, the chance that the Fed will ultimately chicken out in its anti-inflation campaign, and the ongoing fade of the pandemic).

Moreover, and maybe most important, all recent bets so far against U.S.-based manufacturing’s resilience have been losing bets. Unless you think that the nation’s manufacturers have suddenly lost their chops, or are about to, it’s reasonable to suppose that, at least for now, they remain horses worth riding.       

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