Industrial production tumbled 0.8 percent in October, suffering from widespread weakness throughout the manufacturing economy, the Federal Reserve reported. It was the first decline since April.
A 4.5 percent fall in the output of motor vehicles and parts accounted for about one-fourth of the decline in the overall index, the Fed said. But it added, "Output declines also were widespread among most other major market and industry groups."The central bank had reported that output edged up 0.2 percent in September after remaining flat in August. But it said the September gain was due to a sharp rise in automobile production. Excluding that, production fell 0.2 percent.
The central bank also said the operating rate of the nation's factories, mines and utilities dropped 0.9 percentage point to 82.6 percent. The operating rate measures not only output but also changes in productivity levels.
Production at manufacturing plants making both durable and non-durable goods was off 0.8 percent in October after remaining unchanged during the previous two months.
Output of durable goods - automobiles and other big-ticket items expected to last at least three years - plunged 1.3 percent following a 0.3 percent gain in September.
"Production of consumer durable goods other than motor vehicles also decreased in October, as the output of appliances, carpeting and furniture continued to be weak," the Fed said.
Manufacturing of non-durable goods dropped 0.2 percent, "reflecting reductions in production of electricity for residential use, gasoline and clothing," it reported. Non-durable production fell 0.4 percent during the previous month.
Output at mines decreased 0.4 percent after a 0.8 percent gain in September. Utility production fell 1.6 percent after a 0.9 percent advance a month earlier.
The Fed said its industrial production index in October stood at 109.6 percent of its 1987 base, down from 110.5 percent in September. During the past year, output has risen 1.8 percent.
In its capacity utilization report, the Fed said the operating rate at factories was 81.7 percent, down from 82.5 percent the previous month.