If the U.S. economy is still in recession, or getting uncomfortably close to one, it seems no one’s told the nation’s manufacturers. Yesterday’s latest figures from the Federal Reserve show that domestic industry expanded its inflation-adjusted output by 0.43 percent on month in September. Moreover, revisions at this 30,000-foot level were modestly positive (as opposed to some for manufacturing sectors which, as you’ll see, were pretty dramatic).
August’s initially reported gain of just 0.09 percent – which seemed to indicate that the sector was heading into a downturn – is now judged to have been one of 0.38 percent. July’s originally reported 0.72 percent advance was revised down slightly again – from 0.62 percent to 0.60 percent. And June’s results were downgraded a third straight time – from an initially reported dip of 0 05 percent to a drop of 0.58 percent.
These new and revised figures pushed real U.S. manufacturing production is up 4.19 percent from 2020 – just before the CCP Virus and assorted mandated and voluntary behavioral curbs sparked a short but scary downturn and touched off waves of distortion that persist to this day. As of last month’s Fed report, industry’s inflation-adjusted production had risen by 3.49 percent during the pandemic period.
Among the broadest manufacturing sub-sectors tracked by the Fed, the biggest September winners in terms of after-inflation output were:
>apparel and leather goods, whose monthly constant dollar output jumped 1.56 percent. Revisions, moreover were strongly positive. August’s initially reported 0.53 percent downturn was lowered to a slump of 1.85 percent. But July’s results rebounded from a 1.46 percent gain to one of 1.66 percent, after having been revised down from 1.60 percent.
And get a load of the June figures! The initially reported 1.44 percent drop was revised to a boom of 6.09 percent (which would have been the best such increase since August, 2020’s 8.04 percent), then back down to a rise of just 1.46 percent, and finally (for now) back up to a 5.98 percent advance.
Apparel and leather goods’ real output is now 5.39 percent higher than in immediately pre-pandemic-y February, 2020, versus the 4.98 percent calculable last month;
>non-metallic mineral products, where inflation-adjusted production was up 1.41 percent for these companies’ best month since May’s 1.69 percent. Revisions, though, were moderately negative, with August’s initially reported 0.09 percent monthly dip being downgraded to a drop of -0.22 percent; July’s initially reported 0.52 percent increase revised down to a slip of 0.09 percent to a fractional decline; and June’s initially reported 1.07 percent fall-off significantly upgraded to a 0.48 percent increase, then revised down to growth of 0.46 percent, to a fractional decrease.
Still, price-adjusted output in non-metallic mineral products is now 1.48 percent higher than just before the CCP Virus arrived in force, versus the 0.12 percent calculable last month;
>petroleum and coal products, which grew inflation-adjusted output by 1.13 percent in September, and which saw overall positive revisions. August’s initially reported 3.54 percent is now judged to be an advance of 4.13 percent (the strongest since March, 2021’s 11.49 percent). July’s initially estimated 0.94 percent decrease has now been upgraded first to one of 0.25 percent and now to one of 0.23 percent. And June’s results stayed at a significantly downgraded 2.80 percent tumble.
Real output in these sectors is now 3.20 percent higher than in February, 2020, versus the 1.45 percent calculable last month; and
>computer and electronics products, whose constant-dollar production climbed 1.07 percent – now the best growth since February’s 1.20 percent. Yet revisions were negative, as August’s initially reported increase of 1.27 percent (which had been the best since May, 2021’s 2.44 percent) has been downgraded to one of 1.05 percent; July’s initially reported drop of 0.65 percent downgraded to one of 0.68 percent and now to one of 0.89 percent; and June’s results settling in at a 0.45 percent increase after the initially reported 0.21 rise was upgraded to 0.67 percent and then revised down to 0.46 percent.
After inflation production in these industries is now 6.78 percent higher than in that last pre-CCP virus data month of February, 2020 versus the 6.11 percent calculable last month.
September’s biggest price-adjusted growth losers were:
>printing and related support activities, where real output sank by 1.67 percent – its worst such perfomance since January’s 2.09 percent retreat. Just as bad, revisions were negative on net. August’s initially reported 0.27 percent decrease was revised up all the way to a 0.59 percent gain, but July’s loss is now judged to have been 1.60 percent after having been upgraded from on of 1.67 percent to one of 1.50 percent. And June’s initially reported 1.68 increase (then the best such performance since February’s 3.13 percent advance) has been revised since to a decrease of 0.51 percent, 0.40 percent, and 0.41 percent.
Conseqently, this hard-hit sector’s output is 11.81 percent smaller than in February, 2020, versus the 11.02 calculable last month.
>miscellaneous durable goods, the broad category that includes the personal protective equipment and other medical devices used so widely to fight the CCP Virus. Its inflation-adjusted production fell by 1.29 percent in September – the first decrease since March’s fractional dip. Even better, this decline comes off overall positive revisions of already excellent results.
August’s initially reported 1.71 percent increase is now estimated to have been one of 2.86 percent the – best since growth rate since July, 2020’s 5.96 percent, as the economy recovered from the pandemic’s first wave and medical equipment production was prioritiezed. July’s initially reported 1.23 percent improvement was downgraded to one of 0.89 percent and then back up to 0.95 percent, and June’s initially reported 2.25 percent growth stayed at a downwardly revised 0.67 percent following a downgrade to 0.87 percent.
Still, in constant dollar terms, production in this broad category is now 13.78 percent greater than in immediately pre-pandemic-y February, 2020, versus the 13.92 percent calculable last month; and
>paper, where real output in September sank by 0.92 percent. Revisions were mixed, with August’s initially reported 0.80 percent increase (the best such performance since February’s 2.26 percent jump) revised down to 0.69 percent; July’s initially reported 0.64 percent decrease upgraded for a second time, to one of 0.58 percent and now to 0.51 percent; and June’s numbers following a similar pattern, with an initially reported shrinkage of 0.88 percent revised up to losses of 0.62 percent and 0.57 percent, respectively.
Yet paper’s real output is now down by 3.78 percent since just before the pandemic arrived, versus the 2.83 percent worse calculable last month.
Good Septembers were also recorded in two manufacturing sectors of long-time special importance to the economy.
Machinery’s economic role is critical because of how widely its products are used throughout the economy and because its output largely reflects business’ expectations of future demand and growth. So it was good news that this diverse sector’s constant dollar output rose by 0.32 percent in Sept, and that revisions were positive on net.
August’s initially reported 0.99 percent increase (mistakenly reported in my last post as 0.91 percent), which had been the best such growth since April’s 1.97 percent was upgraded all the way up to 2.64 percent! That’s now the best production month since July, 2021’s 2.76 percent. This July’s initially reported 0.50 percent growth was upgraded again – from 0.68 percent to 0.78 percent – but June’s data has been revised down overall from a drop of 1.49 pecent to one of 1.27 percent, and back down to 1.75 percent and 1.83 percent.
These developments have now pushed up machinery’s post-February, 2020 real output to 7.23 percent, versus the 5.07 percent calculable last month.
The automotive sector has greatly influenced the manufacturing production statistics throughout the pandemic era, and its volatility continued in September, with after-inflation output up by one percent. Yet that result followed an August whose production decrease was revised down from 1.44 percent to one of 1.48 percent; a July whose output increase was downgraded from an initially reported 6.60 percent to one of 3.24 percent and now back up to 3.57 percent; and a June whose results have changed from -1.49 percent to -1.27 percent to -1.31 percent to -1.84 percent.
Real vehicle and parts production, however, is now back in the black since February, 2020, now aving risen by 0.89 percent, versus the 0.89 percent slippage calculable last month.
The news also was generally good in September for industries prominent in the news during the CCP Virus era.
Constant-dollar production in the shortage-plagued semiconductor sector rose by 0.45 percent, and revisions overall were mixed. August’s initially reported decline of 0.57 percent (the first in three months) is now judged to have been only 0.39 percent. July’s initially reported 1.16 percent growth has been revised down to 0.77 percent and now a measly 0.02 percent. But June’s initially reported 0.18 percent advance is now judged to have been one of 0.86 percent, after being revised way up to 2.09 percent, and then back down to 0.88 percent.
Real semiconductor production is now 17.29 percent higher since February, 2020, versus the 17.46 percent improvement calculable last month.
Inflation-adjusted production of aircraft and parts grew 0.59 percent in September, and revisions were mixed. August’s initially reported 3.11 percent surge (the best since January, 2021’s 8.61 percent) was downgraded significantly to 1.69 percent. But July’s numbers have been upgraded from an initially reported gain of 1.02 percent to one of 1.52 percent and now to one of 1.90 percent. And June’s initially reported 0.26 percent growth has been revised to a 0.18 percent advance, back up to a rise of 0.24 percent, and again to one of 0.56 percent.
Aircraft and parts production, therefore, has now increased by 31.18 percent since just before the pandemic’s arrival, versus the 30.60 percent rise calculable last month.
Pharmaceutical and medicines companies boosted their real monthly production by 0.64 percent in September, and revisions were mixed. August’s initially reported 1.62 percent improvement (the best since August, 2021’s 1.96 percent) was upgraded to 1.81 percent. But July’s initially reported 0.29 percent increase, which had been revised up to 0.30 percent, is now judged to have been a 0.55 percent loss – the first such setback since February’s 1.35 percent fall). And June’s results have gone from 0.39 percent to unrevised to a gain of 0.32 percent and now a rise of 0.43 percent.
As of last month, phamaceuticals’ and medicines’ after-inflation production level had grown by 16.56 percent since February, 2020. Now the figure is 16.58 percent.
The lone exception to these good September results was medical equipment and supplies – where the personal protective devices and other pandemic fighting equipment is found. Its 1.33 percent after-inflation production fall-off last month was its first since last December (0.71 percent) and the worst such performance since the 15.08 percent crash dive in April, 2020 – at the height of the CCP Virus’ devastating first wave.
But August’s initially reported three percent increase was revised up to 4.40 percent – the best such result since July, 2020’s 9.84 percent. This July’s initially reported 1.90 percent rise was downgraded to 1.58 percent but then upgraded to 1.69 percent. And although June’s figure was revised down from an initially reported 3.12 percent to 1.01 percent and then to 0.67 percent, it was nudged back up to 0.68 percent yesterday.
These net gains pushed medical equipment and supplies’ real production to 17.95 percent above their February, 2020 levels, versus the 17.81 percent improvement calculable last month.
For what it’s worth, the normally pretty reliable forecasters at the Atlanta branch of the Federal Reserve system believe that the economy has now exited the recession it experienced in the first half of this year, and that will grow at a very respectable 2.9 percent after inflation at annual rates in the third quarter of this year. We’ll find out for sure starting October 27, when the first official read on third quarter growth comes out. But at this point, these new manufacturing production data support the idea that economic expansion is back for the time being – and certainly augur well for domestic industry’s prospects at least for the short term.