Manufacturing, industrial output sees worst month since 1946

WASHINGTON (CN) – Amid widespread closures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, U.S. manufacturing and industrial production in March posted the biggest declines since the aftermath of World War II, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday.

Total industrial production dropped by 5.4% last month, while manufacturing plummeted 6.3%, the largest single-month drops since January 1946 and February 1946, respectively, according to data released by the Federal Reserve.

While the data released on Wednesday showed across-the-board declines in nearly all major industries as factories shuttered in response to the pandemic, the auto industry led the way, with production dropping 28%. Output for furniture, textile and product mills, apparel and leather and printing and support also posted double-digit drops in March.

Overall, U.S. industry was operating at 72.7% capacity, falling more than four points from February and more than five points from this time last year.

Most widespread closures began in mid-March, as U.S. Covid-19 cases rose and testing capacity lagged. As of Wednesday, all but six states have issued some level of a stay-at-home order and all but eight have closed nonessential businesses, according to a tracker compiled by the American Enterprise Institute.