Industrial output falls for fifth straight month as economy struggles

In a sign the economy struggled into the second quarter, industrial production fell for a fifth straight month

Industrial production fell in April for the fifth straight month, a sign that economic weakness at the start of the year has continued into the second quarter.

Drops in output from mining, caused by lower oil prices, and utilities helped fuel the 0.3% decline, the Federal Reserve said Friday.

Output also was down 0.3% in March.

Analysts had forecast industrial production would be flat in April, as economic growth has been expected to improve following a weak first quarter.

Industrial production declined 0.7% from January through March, the first quarterly decrease since the Great Recession ended in 2009.

"These numbers don't look great but they are exactly what should be expected in the immediate aftermath of a plunge in oil prices in a country which is a big oil producer as well as a huge consumer," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Mining output dropped 0.8% in April, the fourth straight monthly decline. The figure had been down 0.1% in March.

The drop this year has been caused by "a sharp fall in oil and gas well drilling," the Fed said. Drilling decreased 14.5% in April and was down 46.5% from a year earlier.

Utilities added to the pain in April, with output declining 1.3%. Still, that was an improvement from a 5.4% drop in March.

The April decline was caused by warmer than usual weather, Shepherdson said.

Manufacturing production was unchanged in April after increasing 0.3% the previous month.

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