Yesterday’s after-inflation U.S. manufacturing production report (for June) marked a second straight decline in real output for domestic industry, adding to the evidence that this so far resilient sector is finally suffering the effects of the entire economy’s recent slowdown.
Another possible implication of the new downbeat results: The record and surging trade deficits being run in manufacturing lately may finally be starting undermine U.S.-based manufacturing’s growth. (See here for how and why.)
Also important to note: This release from the Federal Reserve incorporated the results of both typical monthly revisions but also its annual “benchmark” revision, which reexamined its data going back several years (in this case, to 2020), and updated the figures in light of any new findings.
And the combination has revealed some big surprises – notably that the domestic semiconductor industry, which along with its foreign competition has been struggling to keep up with recently booming worldwide demand, has turned out fully 36 percent less worth of microchips on a price-adjusted basis since the CCP Virus struck than was calculable from the (pre-revisions) May report.
In real terms, U.S.-based manufacturing shrank by 0.54 percent on month in June – the worst such result since last September’s 0.78 percent drop. Moreover, May’s originally reported 0.07 sequential percent dip is now judged to be a decrease of 0.52 percent.
The April results remained good, but were downgraded a second time, from 0.75 percent monthly growth in after inflation to 0.66 percent, while the March numbers told a similar story, with a third consecutive modest downward revision still leaving that month’s inflation-adjusted expansion at 0.76 percent.
Especially discouraging, though – the June report plus the two revisions left constant dollar U.S. manufacturing output just 2.98 percent greater than just before the pandemic struck the economy in full force and began distorting it, in February, 2020. The pre-benchmark revision May release pegged its virus-era real growth at a much higher 4.94 percent, and the first post-benchmark number was 4.12 percent.
May’s biggest manufacturing growth winners among the broadest manufacturing categories tracked by the Fed were:
>the very small apparel and leather goods industry. Its price-adjusted output surged by 2.54 percent month-to-month in June – its best such perfomance since May, 2021’s 2.63 percent. May’s initially reported 0.88 percent gain was revised down to a 0.34 percent loss, though. April’s upgraded 0.30 percent rise is now judged to be a 0.33 percent decrease, and March’s figures were revised down after two upgrades – from 1.54 to a still solid 1.30 percent. But whereas last month’s Fed release showed inflation-adjusted production in this sector up 4.59 percent during the pandemic era, this growth is now pegged at just 0.56 percent;
>the miscellaneous durable goods sector, which contains the medical products like personal protective equipment looked to as major CCP Virus fighters. It’s June sequential output jump of 2.25 percent was its biggest since March, 2021’s 2.61 percent, and revisions were overall positive. May’s initially reported 0.96 percent monthly price-adjusted production gain was downgraded to 0.49 percent, but the April figure was revised up for a second time – to 0.71 percent – and March’s results were upgraded a third straight time, to 0.51 percent.
These industries are now 14.11 percent bigger in constant dollar terms than in February, 2020, versus the 11.41 percent gain calculable last month; and
>the electrical equipment, appliances, and components cluster, where price-adjusted production climbed 1.34 percent on a monthly basis in June, the strongest such showing since February’s 2.29 percent.. Revisions were positive on net, with May’s originally reported 1.83 percent monthly falloff downgraded to one of 2.35 percent, but April’s initially estimated -0.60 percent decrease upgraded a second time,to a 0.49 percent gain, and March’s three revisions resulting in an originally judged 1.03 percent increase now pegged at 1.23 percent. These results pushed these companies’ real production 5.59 percent higher than in immediately pre-pandemic-y February, 2020, not the 2.19 percent calculable last month;
The list of biggest manufacturing inflation-adjusted output losers for June was considerably longer, starting with
>printing and related support activities, where the monthly inflation-adjusted production loss of 2.16 percent was the worst such showing since February, 2021’s 2.26 percent. Revisions were actually net positive, with May’s initially reported dip of 0.35 percent upgraded to one of 0.15 percent; April’s results downgraded from a one percent advance to one of 0.33 percent after being revised up from an initially reported 0.49 percent; and March’s totals rising cumulatively from an initially reported 1.10 percent decrease to a decline of just 0.05 percent. All the same, the printing cluster is now judged to be 11.37 percent smaller in real terms than in February, 2020, not the 1.89 percent calculable last month;
>petroleum and coal products, whose June sequential production decrease of 1.92 percent was its biggest since January’s 2.96 percent. Revisions here were mixed, too, with May’s figure revised up from a 2.53 percent improvement to one of 2.61 percent; April’s totals downgraded a second time, from a 0.13 rise to one of 0.04 percent to a decrease of 1.91 percent; and March’s results increasing from an initial estimate of 0.72 percent to one of 1.03 percent. But whereas last month’s Fed release showed petroleum and coal products’ after-inflation output 1.21 percent above its last pre-pandemic level, this month’s reports that it’s 0.27 percent below.
>textiles and products, where price-adjusted output sank on month by 1.80 percent for its worst month since March’s 2.45 percent shrinkage. Revisions were negative, with May’s initially reported 0.02 percent real production decline downgraded to one of 0.35 percent, April’s upgraded 0.45 percent increase now pegged as a 0.05 percent decrease, and March’s initially reported 1.55 percent falloff now judged to be one of 2.45 percent. As a result, the sector is now 5.35 percent smaller in terms of constant dollar output, rather than down 3.80 percent as calculable last month; and
>primary metals, whose inflation-adjusted production sagged by 1.60 percent on month – its poorest performance since March’s 1.42 retreat. Revisions were overall positive here, with May’s initially reported 0.77 percent real output rise downgraded to one of 0.66 percent, April’s initially downgraded 1.22 percent increase revised up to 1.46 percent, and March’s initially reported 1.69 percent drop now judged to be that aforementioned 1.42 percent. Even so, primary metals price-adjusted production is now estimated as having inched up only 0.50 percent since the pandemic arrived, not the 4.45 percent increase calculable last month.
In addition, an unusually high three other major industry sectors suffered constant dollar output declines of more than one percent on month in June. On top of plastics and rubber products (1.25 percent), the were two that RealityChek has followed especially closely during the pandemic period – machinery and automotive.
As known by RealityChek regulars, the machinery industry is a bellwether for both the rest of manufacturing and the entire economy, since use of its products is so widespread. But in June, its real production was off by 1.14 percent on month, and May’s initially reported 2.14 percent decrease is now estimated at-3.14 percent – its worst figure since the 18.64 collapse recorded in pandemic-y April, 2020. And although this April’s numbers have been revised up twice, to have reached 2.20 percen, March’s initially reported 0.78 percent inflation-adjusted increase is now estimated to have been a 0.89 decrease. Consequently, in price-adjusted terms, the machinery sector is now estimated to be 4.70 percent larger than in February, 2020, not the 6.29 percent calculable last month.
As for motor vehicles and parts makers, dogged for months by that aforementioned semiconductor shortage, their real output was off by 1.49 percent on month in June, and May’s initially reported rise of 0.70 percent is now estimated as a1.86 percent decline. Following a slight downgrade, April’s output is now pegged as growing by 3.85 percent rather than 3.34 percent, and March’s initially reported 7.80 percent advance is now pegged at 9.08 percent – the best such total since last October’s 10.34 percent. Nonetheless, after-inflation automotive output is now reported to be 1.07 percent lower than just before the pandemic arrive in force, not the 1.17 percent higher calculable last month.
Notably, other industries that consistently have made headlines during the pandemic outperformed the rest of manufacturing in June.
Constant dollar output by aircraft- and aircraft parts-makers was up 0.26 percent month-to-month in June, but revisions were mixed. May’s initially reported 0.33 percent rise has now been downgraded to a 0.23 percent decline – snapping a four-month winning streak. April’s results were upgraded a second straight time – from a hugely upgraded 2.90 percent to an excellent 3.13 percent (the best such performance since January, 2021’s 8.60 percent burst). But the March figures have been substantially downgraded from an initially reported 2.31 percent to a gain of just 0.53 percent. After all this volatility, though, real aircaft and parts production is now 25.58 percent greater than in February, 2020, much better than the 19.08 percent calculable last month.
The big pharmaceuticals and medicines industry grew its real putput by another 0.39 percent in June, but revisions were generally negative. May’s initially reported 0.42 percent improvement, however, is now judged to be just an infinitesimal 0.01 percent. April’s upgraded 0.15 percent rise is now pegged as a 0.04 percent loss, and March’s results have been downgraded all the way from an initially reported 1.17 percent increase to one of just 0.49 percent. Price-adjusted output in these sectors, therefore, is now estimated at 12.98 percent higher than in February, 2020, versus the 14.64 percent calculable last month.
Medical equipment and supplies firms boosted their inflation-adjusted output for a sixth straight month in June, and by a stellar 3.12 percent – their best such performance since January’s 3.15 percent. May’s growth was downgraded from 1.44 percent to 1.01 percent, but April’s estimate rose again, from 0.51 percent to 1.01 percent, and March’s initially reported 1.81 percent improvement has been slightly downgraded to 1.67 percent. This progress pushed these companies’ real pandemic era output growth from the 11.51 percent calculable last month to 17.27 percent.
The news was significantly worse, though, in that shortage-plagued semiconductor industry. Real production rose by 0.18 percent sequentially in June, but May’s initially reported 0.52 percent advance is now judged to have been a 2.24 percent drop. Meanwhile, April’s already dreary initially reported 1.85 percent slump has now been downgraded again to one of 2.71 percent (the sector’s worst such performance since the 11.26 percent plunge in December, 2008 – in the middle of the Great Recession that followed the global financial crisis). Even March’s initially reported impressive 1.99 percent monthly price-adjusted production increase has been revised all the way down to 0.52 percent.
The bottom line: The pandemic-era semiconductor real production increase that was estimated at 23.82 percent last month is now judged to have been just 15.22 percent.
It’s not as if the recent official manufacturing data has been all disappointing. Employment, notably, rose respectably on month in June. And the pace of capital spending has actually sped up some (at least through May) – which, like employment is a sign of continued optimism among manufacturers about their future outlook.
But at this point, the headwinds look stronger – including continued credit tightening by the Federal Reserve (not to mention a drawdown in the massive bond purchases that also have significantly propped up the entire economy); the resulting downshifting in domestic economic growth at which the Fed is aiming in order to bring down raging inflation; an even worse slump in economies overseas, which have been important markets for U.S.-based industry; the strongest dollar in about two decades, which puts Made in America products at a price disadvantage the world over; and the ongoing supply chain snags resulting from the Ukraine-Russia War and China’s lockdowns-happy Zero Covid policy.
And don’t forget those stratospheric and still-rising manufacturing trade deficits, which could well mean that, once the unprecedented pandemic fiscal and monetary stimulus/virus relief that have helped create so much business for domestic industry starts fading significantly, U.S.-based manufacturers could might themselves further behind the eight-ball than ever.