Doldrums in the auto and steel industries and a steep decline in oil and gas drilling pushed industrial production down 0.5% in March, the Federal Reserve Board said today.
Output in American factories, mines and utilities slipped back for the second consecutive month, following a 0.7% decline in February, to just 0.9% above the February, 1985, level.
Before the February setback, the last decline in industrial production had been in October, 1985, when the index fell back 0.6%. The February-March decline was the steepest since September-October of 1982.
The sharpest percentage decline was in the durable consumer goods sector, as weak auto and truck sales and excessive inventories, which forced the index back 0.2% in February, knocked it down 2.9% last month.
Autos Weak, Steel Drops
Weak auto sales have in turn depressed production of steel and other durable manufactured goods, which fell back 1% last month.
Mining production was off 1.1% as a collapse in oil to as low as $10 a barrel during March forced the shutdown of many wells. The mining index has declined 6.8% in the last 12 months.
Production in defense and space-related industries, which had declined 1.7% in February, rose 0.6% in March.
In the three major industry groupings, total manufacturing production was down 0.5%, utilities were off 0.1% and mining was down 1.1%, the Fed said.
Production of consumer goods overall was down 0.7%, but production of non-durable consumer goods, including clothing, cosmetics and other light articles, inched up 0.1%.