Industrial Production Jumps in November as Factories Heat Up

WASHINGTON (Los Angeles Times/TNS) -

Factories heated up last month, helping fuel the biggest jump in overall industrial production in two years, the Federal Reserve said Monday.

Industrial production, which includes output from manufacturers, mines and utilities, increased 1.3 percent in November, after a surprisingly weak October.

The industrial capacity utilization rate, which measures how close facilities are to full production, also surged last month. It rose 0.8 percentage points to 80.1 percent, its best level since 2008.

The Fed revised up its October figure to a 0.1 percent gain from an initial estimate of a 0.1 percent decline.

That reading was still unexpectedly weak, driven down by a sharp decrease in mining production caused by falling oil prices.

Monday’s report was one of the last pieces of major economic data to be released before Federal Reserve policymakers gather for a two-day meeting this week to decide if the economy is strong enough to start raising rock-bottom interest rates next year.

Economists expected industrial production to rebound last month, but the surge was nearly double the consensus 0.7 percent forecast.

Factories led the way.

Manufacturing production increased 1.1 percent last month, after a 0.4 percent rise in October. A big factor was a 5.1 percent increase in production of motor vehicles and parts, but gains were spread across most industries.

“The rise in factory output was well above its average monthly pace of 0.3 percent over the previous five months and was its largest gain since February,” the Fed said.

November was the second consecutive month that factory output exceeded its pre-Great Recession peak, reached in late 2007, the Fed said.

Mining production fell 0.1 percent last month, as oil prices continued their worldwide plunge.

But the drop was not as bad as November’s 1 percent decline.

Utilities bounced back strongly, with production up 5.1 percent last month after dropping 0.7 percent in October.

Colder-than-normal weather in November boosted demand for heating, the Fed said.