U.S. factory output down on tumbling auto production

Thursday August 17, 2017
Written by Paul Wiseman, The Associated Press
Aug. 17, 2017 - A slump in the auto industry drove U.S. factory output down in July and has kept it flat for months.

The Fed said Thursday that factory production dropped 0.1 per cent last month, pulled down by a 3.5 per cent plunge in output of cars, trucks and auto parts. Auto production has dropped for three straight months and is down 5 per cent over the past year. Auto sales, which have been strong in recent years, skidded 7 per cent in July.

The drop in automotive production was partially offset in July by a 0.2 per cent rise in other manufacturing output.

Overall industrial production — which adds output by mines and utilities — rose 0.2 per cent, the Fed said. Mining output rose 0.5 per cent, and utility production rose 1.6 per cent.

American manufacturers had bounced back from a slump in late 2015 and early 2016 caused by cutbacks in the energy industry and a strong dollar, which makes U.S. goods costlier in foreign markets. But the Fed says manufacturing output was little-changed from February through July.

Other recent reports on American manufacturing have looked stronger.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York on Tuesday reported that factory activity in New York shot up to the highest level in nearly three years.

The Commerce Department reported earlier this month that orders at U.S. factories surged in June on strong demand for civilian aircraft. The Institute for Supply Management reported that American factories expanded in July for the 11th straight month.

Factories have hired 66,000 workers since July 2016, biggest 12-month gain in nearly a year and a half.

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