WASHINGTON — Industrial production grew last month at the fastest pace in a year, pushing manufacturing output above its pre-Great Recession peak for the first time, the Federal Reserve said Monday.
Factories, mines and utilities increased production 1.1% in November from the previous month, the Fed said. October's industrial production was revised up to a 0.1% increase from an initially reported 0.1% decrease.
Year-over-year, industrial production was up 3.2% last month as demand has increased domestically and abroad. U.S. exports hit a record high in October as Europe emerged from a long recession and other global economies expanded.
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November's big gain in industrial production surprised economists, who had projected it to rise about 0.6%. The new data comes amid a flurry of upbeat economic reports indicating the recovery is strengthening as the year ends.
"Production, put simply, is on a tear and fits with the record level of goods exports we have seen recently," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in New York.
"The economy has reached escape-velocity," he said.
The Fed's industrial production index hit 101.3 in November, topping the previous high reached in December 2007 at the start of the Great Recession.
Overall, the index is 21% above its recent low point, hit in June 2009.
November's surge was driven by a 3.9% increase in output from electric and gas utilities, as colder-than-normal weather increased demand for heating. Mines also increased their output significantly in November, up 1.7% from the previous month.
The increase in factory output was not as strong last month but still was up 0.6% from October. It was the fourth-straight monthly increase and the biggest jump since August.