US industrial output plunges 11.2% in April amid pandemic

A couple walk by a row of closed motels, in Old Orchard Beach, Maine on April 29. (AP pic)

WASHINGTON: American industrial production dropped a record 11.2% in April, the first full month of widespread business lockdowns, with massive declines across sectors, particularly in autos and oil, the Federal Reserve said Friday.

It was the “largest monthly drop in the 101-year history of the index, as the Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic led many factories to slow or suspend operations throughout the month,” the Fed said.

The auto sector took the biggest hit, plunging more than 70%, according to the data.

Overall manufacturing output fell 13.8% in the month and is 18% below April of last year.

Decreases of around 20% were recorded by primary metal products, aerospace and miscellaneous transportation equipment, and by furniture and related products, according to the report.

With demand for energy collapsing amid the pandemic shutdowns, the Fed said oil and gas well drilling fell 28%, its largest drop on record dating back to 1972.

Factory capacity in use fell nearly 10 points last month to 61.1%, below the previous record low set in June 2009 amid the global financial crisis.