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The big story in the new Federal Reserves manufacturing production figures that were released Wednesday (taking the story through October) was in the revisions. And I don’t mean the revisions for individual industries, which previous Fed reports has shown to be pretty remarkable (to put it diplomatically). It was in the downgrades for the total output of U.S.-based industry adjusted for inflation, which revealed a considerably weaker performance than first estimated.

Domestic industry just barely stayed in growth mode in October, expanding real production by 0.15 percent. But weighing more heavily on the sector’s recent performance, revisions for every month since July were negative.

September’s initially reported price-adjusted gain of 0.43 percent is now estimated to have been 0.24 percent. August’s after-inflation increase – first upgraded from 0.09 percent to 0.38 percent was downgraded to 0.10 percent. July’s initially reported constant dollar advance of 0.72 percent has now been downgraded three straight times – to 0.62 percent, 0,60 percent, and 0.53 percent. And June’s initially reported inflation-adjusted drop of 0.54 percent, after having been revised up to a dip of 0.45 percent, was downgraded three straight times, too – to 0.56 percent, 0.58 percent, and 0.59 percent.

Consequently, U.S.-based manufacturing’s real production increase since February, 2020 – just before the arrival of the CCP Virus sparked assorted mandated and voluntary behavioral curbs and a shot but deep economic downturn – now stands at just 3.76 percent, versus the 4.19 percent improvement calculable last month.

Among the broadest manufacturing sub-sectors tracked by the Fed, the biggest October winners in terms of after-inflation output were:

>the automotive sector, whose volatility has greatly influenced manufacturing’s
overall growth performance throughout the pandemic era. Price-adjusted production of motor vehicles and parts climbed by 2.05 percent on month in October, and revisions were mixed. September’s initially reported increase of one percent was revised down to one of 0.44 percent. August’s initially reported fall-off of -1.44 percent was downgraded to one of 1.48 percent before being revised back up one of 1.07 percent. July’s initially reported jump of 6.60 percent was downgraded to an increase of just 3.24 percent, but then revised up again to 3.57 percent and 3.84 percent. (still the best such performance since September, 2021’s 10.34 percent burst). And June’s initially reported 1.49 percent decrease was upgrade to a decline of 1.27 percent before being downgraded to a loss of 1.31 percent and settling in at a retreat of 1.84 percent

All the same, these gyrations left the automotive industry 3.18 percent larger in real terms since immediately pre-pandemic February, 2020, versus the 0.89 percent increase calculable last month;

>electrical equipment, appliance, and components, where a 1.92 percent increase
in real output in October was its best such performance since February’s 2.29 percent rise. Revisions, however, were slightly negative. September’s initially reported 0.93 percent gain was downgraded to one of 0.63 percent. August’s initially reported 1.01 percent decrease was revised up to one of 0.51 percent before being revised down again to inflation-adjusted growth of 0.81 percent. July’s initially reported -1.41 percent contraction in price-adjusted output has been steadily downgraded to one of 1.44 percent, 1.55 percent, and finally 1.65 percent. And June’s initially reported real growth improvement of 1.34 percent was revised up twice – to 1.42 percent to 1.45 percent, and then held steady before being revised down to 1.37 percent.

After-inflation production in this diverse sector is now 7.07 percent above February, 2020 levels versus the 5.90 percent calculable last month;

>aerospace and miscellaneous transportation equipment, which generated a 1.90 percent sequential inflation-adjusted output increase in October, and registered mixed revisions. September’s initially reported increase of 0.56 percent is now judged to have been a dip of 0.28 percent, and August’s initially reported 2.08 percent rise has been downgraded first to 1.19 percent and now 0.48 percent. But July’s initially reported 1.54 percent constant dollar output increase has been upgraded three times – to 1.85 percent, 2.11 percent, and 2.12 percent. And after a downward revision from a 0.09 percent rise to a 0.14 percent fall, June’s results were upgraded to increases of 0.15 percent, 0.37 percent, and 0.53 percent.

These upgrades were enough to push real aerospace and miscellaneous transportation equipment’s post-February, 2020 price adjusted growth to 26.29 percent, versus the 24.20 percent calculable last month;

>printing and related support activities, a hard-hit industry recently that nonetheless produced 1.90 percent more in October when accounting for inflation than in September – its best such result since e February’s 3.13 percent surge. Yet revisions spoiled the picture to some extent. September’s initially reported decrease of 1.67 percent was downgraded to one of 1.93 percent – its worst monthly shrinkage since January’s 2.09 percent. But August’s initially reported 0.27 percent contraction was significantly upgraded to a gain of 0.59 percent and then to 0.87 percent. July’s results have been revised up from a decrease of 1.67 percent to one of 1.60 percent to one of 1.50 percent to one of 1.27 percent. And June’s estimates have been all over the place – from an initially reported 1.68 percent advance to one of 0.51 percent to a 0.40 percent decline back to a 0.41 rise and then to a 1.04 percent fall.

All told, real output in this sector closed to within 9.37 percent of its levels just before the CCP Virus struck from the 11.81 percent calculable last month;

>apparel and leather goods, which continued a generally good recent run by boosting real output by 1.04 percent on month in October Revisions were positive on net –and in one instance, stunningly so. September’s initially reported 1.56 percent inflation-adjusted production increase was upgraded significantly to 2.29 percent. August’s initially reported -0.53 slip was upgraded all the way up to a 1.85 percent increase and then back down to a 2.81 deterioration. July’s initially reported 1.60 percent advance was revised down to one of 1.46 percent, then back up to one of 1.66 percent, then left unchanged, and then downgraded to a 1.52 percent increase. And June’s initially reported 1.68 pecent increase was downgraded to a 0.51 percent decline, then revised up to a dip of just 0.40 percent, then downgraded to a decrease of 1.04 percent, and then revised all the way back to a 5.84 percent pop – these companies’ best such performance since the 8.04 percent jump in August, 2020, during the economic recovery from the first pandemic wave.

Apparel and leather goods production is now up 5.82 percent in real terms since immediately pre-pandemic February, 2020, versus the 5.39 percent calculable last month; and

>machinery, which RealityChek regulars know is a major barometer of the health of the entire economy, since its products are used so widely by nearly all goods and industries alike. Its constant dollar production climbed by one percent month-to-month in October, but revisions were negative on net. September’s initially reported 0.32 output gain was upgraded nicely to one of 1.41 percent. But August’s initially reported advance of 0.99 percent was upped considerably to 2.64 percent before being downgraded to 1.99 percent. July’s initially reported rise of 0.50 percent was revised up to 0.68 percent and 0.78 percent, but then downgraded to 0.57 percent. And June’s initially reported drop of 1.49 percent was narrowed to one of 1.27 percent before being downgraded to 1.75 percent, 1.83 percent, and 1.93 percent.

Still, the machinery sector has now boosted its real growth since February, 2020 to 8.31 percent, versus the 7.23 percent calculable last month.

Among the broadest manufacturing groupings tracked by the Fed, the biggest inflation-adjusted output losers were:

>wood products, whose fortunes seem to stem from the woes of a housing sector suffering from the central bank’s inflation-fighting interest rate hikes. In real terms, it contracted by 2.54 percent in October – its worst such performance since sinking 3.22 percent in February, 2021. And revisions were negative on balance. September’s initially reported 0.44 percent loss is now judge to have been one of 2.14 percent. August’s initially reported 1.70 percent decrease was revised down to one of 2.36 percent before being upgraded to one of 2.09 percent. July’s initially reported advance of 0.72 percent was turned into a decreases of 0.03 percent, 0.09 percent, and -0.65 over the next three months. And June’s initially reported increase of 0.73 percent was downgraded to 0.42 percent, then to a decrease of 0.62 percent before being revised up to a retreat of just 0.34 percent.

These net setbacks mean that wood products’ real output since the pandemic arrived is now down by 2.67 percent. As of last month, it was up by 1.43 percent;

>nonmetallic mineral products, whose price-adjusted output fell by 1.19 percent
– its worst such showing since April’s 1.52 percent. Revisions overall, though, were positive. September’s initially reported 1.41 percent growth was upgraded to 2.13 percent – the sector’s best such performance since February’s 4.39 percent surge. August’s initially reported vised 0.90 percent decrease was revised up to a 0.22 percent loss and then to a 0.14 percent expansion. July’s initially reported 0.52 percent increase was downgraded to a 0.09 dip, then slightly upgraded to a fractional decline, and to a 0.04 percent decrease. And June’s initially reported 1.07 percent decrease was revised up to gains of 0.48 percent and 0.46 percent, respectively, down to a fractional decrease, and back up to a 0.37 percent increase.

But nonmetalllic mineral products has now expanded its post-CCP Virus arrival real production by just 1.09 percent, versus the 1.48 percent calculable last month; and

>petroleum and coal products, where constant dollar was depressed sequentially by 1.86 percent in October and revisions were mixed. September’s initially reported 1.13 percent rise was upgraded to one of 1.68 percent. August’s initially reported jump of 3.54 percent was revised even higher to 4.13 percent (the strongest since March, 2021’s post-winter storm 11.49 percent) and then back down to 2.77 percent (still the best since that March). July’s initially reported 0.94 percent decrease was upgraded to narrower losses of 0.25 to and 0.23 percent to an uptick of 0.05 percent. June’s initiallyreported 1.92 percent drop was revised down to one of 2.80 percent, to a no-change finding, to a smaller drop of 2.58 percent – still the worst such performance since January’s 2.96 percent retreat.

These results pushed real output by petroleum and coal products businesses 1.14 percent above their February, 2020 levels, lower than the 3.20 pecent calculable last month.

The semiconductor industry, whose supply chain problems have so influenced the fortunes of manufacturing and the entire U.S. and global economies, saw inflation-adjusted production decline by 1.37 percent on a monthly basis in October, and revisions were strongly negative. September’s initially reported after-inflation production gain of 0.45 percent has turned into a 1.07 percent drop. August’s initially reported 0.57 percent decline was slightly upgraded to one of 0.39 percent but now stands as a 1.47 percent retreat (the biggest since April’s 3.14 percent). July’s initially reported 1.16 percent increase has been revised down to a gain of 0.77 percent, and then to losses of 0.02 percent and 0.40 percent. June’s initially reported results were first significantly revised up from a rise of 0.18 percent to 2.09 percent, but have since been downgraded to 0.88 percent to 0.86 percent to 0.80 percent.

In inflation-adjusted terms, semiconductor production is now up by only 12.16 percent since the pandemic’s arrival in force state-side, way down from the 17.29 percent increase calculable last month.

For two manufacturing groupings of special interest during the pandemic era, October brought good growth results. Indeed, in aircraft and parts, real output advanced by 2.51 percent on month – the best such performance since April’s 3.01 percet. Revisions, however, were somewhat negative. September’s initially reported 0.59 percent rise was downgraded to one of a mere 0.05 percent. August’s initially reported 3.11 percent improvement has been revised down twice – to 1.69 percent and 1.48 percent. July’s initially reported 1.02 percent growth was upgraded twice – to 1.52 percent and 1.90 percent – before falling back to 1.85 percent. But after a downgrade from an initially reported 0.26 percent increase to one of 0.18 percent, June’s results have received upward revisions to 0.24 percent, 0.56 percent, and 0.74 percent.

Nonetheless, aircraft and parts’ price-adjusted output is now 34.14 percent greater during the pandemic era versus the 31.18 percent calculable last month.

Pharmaceutical and medicines companies’ (including vaccine producers’) constant dollar production edged up just 0.20 percent in October, and revisions on balance were negative. September’s initially reported 0.64 increase was downgraded to 0.55 percent. August’s initially reported 1.62 percent growth was upgraded to 1.81 percent and then slightly reduced to 1.80 percent. July’s initially reported 0.29 increase was revised up to 0.30 percent, but then downgraded to losses of 0.55 percent and 0.54 percent. June’s initiallay reported 0.39 rise went unchanged before falling to 0.32 percent, and then advancing to 0.43 percent and 0.44 percent.

After these moves, real output of pharmaceuticals and medicines was 16.71 percent higher than since the February, 2020 onset of the U.S. pandemic, versus the 16.56 percent calculable last month.

Finally, medical equipment and supplies firms raised their production in after-inflation terms by 0.32 percent in October, but revisions were significantly negative. September’s initially reported 1.33 percent drop was revised down to one of 1.43 percent – the worst such performance since the 15.08 percent nosedive of peak pandemic-y April, 2020. August’s initially reported rise of three percent was upgraded to 4.40 percent but then revised dow to 2.92 percent – the best such perfomance since January.

These revisions dragged inflation-adjusted medical equipment and supplies output down to 15.75 percent over its level since February, 2020, versus the 17.95 percent increase calculable last month.

As usual, during these last CCP Virus-roiled years, the outlook for domestic manufacturing seems to be subject to numerous crosswinds. The headwinds include continued tightening of credit conditions by the Fed as it tries to reduce inflation by slowing the economy; numerous predictions of a recession next year (see, e.g., here); economic weakness in major foreign markets to which domestic industry sells; and a still strong dollar (which harms the price competitiveness of U.S.-made goods the world over).

The tailwinds include indications of American economic growth that’s actually strengthening; the possibility that the Fed will at least slow the pace of its rate hikes even before it’s sure that inflation is cooling (precisely to avoid a recession, or a deep recession); a loosening of the supply chain snags that appeared once the global recovery from the first CCP Virus wave began; and amped up federal support for domestic semiconductor manufacturing and the continuing (and hopefully quickening) roll-out of projects funded by the 2021 infrastructure bill.

So far, as I keep observing, the nation’s manufacturers have met their challenges admirably.  But those downward revisions have me wondering whether This Time It’s Different – at least for the next few months.