Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Industrial production for March is positive, but the overall trend remains flat


 - by New Deal democrat

Industrial production, one of the premier series the NBER has historically used to declare recessions vs. expansions, has faded in importance since China was admitted to regular trading status in 1999. As you can see in the first graph below, both total and manufacturing production peaked in 2007. Further, manufacturing has continued to fade, as its post-pandemic peak has not equaled its 2010’s peak either:

In March, total production increased 0.4% from an upwardly revised, by 0.2%, February; but it is still down -0.6% from its September 2022 post-pandemic peak. Manufacturing production increased 0.5%, but is also down, by -0.2% from its post-pandemic peak as well:

Before the “China shock,” a YoY downturn in industrial production almost always meant recession. As the YoY graph below shows, there was a significant “industrial recession” in 2015-16 without any generalized economic downturn:

Whether the 2019 downturn would have resulted in a recession by itself had the pandemic not intervened will always remain an unanswered question. But again in 2023 production was again down YoY with no recession. As of March, manufacturing production is flat YoY, while total production is now up by 1.0%.

Bottom line: while March was positive, the overall trend remains generally flat.