U.S. industrial production fell 0.2% in April, the first decline in six months, as the industrial sector of the economy continued to suffer from America’s weak trading performance, the government reported today.
The Federal Reserve Board said its index of total output at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities fell for the first time since a 0.4% decline last October.
The inability of U.S. industry to compete with foreign products was cited as the main reason overall economic growth slumped to an anemic 1.3% during the first three months of this year, the slowest pace since the end of the 1981-82 recession. Reflecting this slow growth, the employment rate has been stuck at 7.3% for the last three months.
Worries have begun rising about a recession, perhaps starting next year, and some analysts have warned that the United States is already in a growth recession, a period when economic growth is so sluggish that the unemployment rate rises.
Today’s report on industrial production showed the biggest drop occurring in industries making durable goods, items expected to last three or more years. These industries suffered a 0.4% decline while the non-durable goods segment dipped 0.1%.
Automobiles were assembled at an annual rate of 8.1 million units in April, down from the March rate of 8.3 million units.
Production of business equipment fell by 0.3% in April, the fourth consecutive decrease for this industry.
About the only industrial segment showing strength was the defense and space industry, which posted a 0.7% increase in April following a 1.3% March gain.