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US factory output falls in fresh supply chain warning

The figures also reflect ongoing production challenges following Hurricane Ida
Crews work around the clock at the new Amazon robotic fulfillment center currently under construction on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021 in Temple Terrace.
Crews work around the clock at the new Amazon robotic fulfillment center currently under construction on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021 in Temple Terrace. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Oct. 18

Production at U.S. factories fell by the most in seven months in September, in part reflecting a sharp pullback in the manufacturing of motor vehicles as well as broader backlogged supply chains and materials shortages.

The 0.7 percent decrease for manufacturers followed a revised 0.4 percent decline in August, Federal Reserve data showed Monday. Total industrial production, which also includes mining and utility output, fell 1.3 percent last month.

The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 0.1 percent monthly increase in both factory production and industrial output. Stocks fell and Treasury yields were up after market open.

Resilient demand among firms and consumers has kept production elevated, but it’s also contributed to order backlogs as manufacturers struggle to source materials and skilled labor. The weaker-than-expected September print indicates that producers continue to be held back by snarled supply chains.

The figures also reflect ongoing production challenges following Hurricane Ida, which contributed 0.3 percentage point to the drop in manufacturing, the Fed said.

Car Troubles

The report showed motor vehicles and parts output fell 7.2 percent last month, the sharpest drop since April, after a 3.2 percent decrease in August, as a global shortage of semiconductors continues to weigh on production.

Automakers including Toyota Motor Corp. have slashed production outlooks for the coming months, citing the parts shortage as a limiting factor. S&P Global Ratings also lowered its U.S. auto sales forecast for this year and expects a “bumpy road” in 2022.

Excluding motor vehicles, production of durable goods rose 0.5 percent, reflecting gains in the manufacturing of primary metals, electrical equipment and furniture, the Fed said. Nondurable manufacturing, which includes chemicals and paper products, fell 1 percent last month, the most since February.

Manufacturing job openings are near a record high, and for the products factories can source, prices have soared. Recent data from the Labor Department showed a price gauge of processed goods for intermediate demand, which include materials and components used in manufacturing and construction, are up almost 24 percent from 12 months ago.

Digging Deeper:

  • Manufacturing capacity utilization, a measure of plant use, decreased to 75.9 percent, while total industrial capacity dropped to 75.2 percent
  • Utility output decreased 3.6 percent in September; oil and gas well drilling dropped 1.2 percent
  • Mining output fell 2.3 percent, reflecting lingering effects of Ida
  • Production of business equipment rose 0.4 percent after a 0.6 percent decline in the prior month