WASHINGTON – U.S. factories barely boosted their output in September, adding to other signs that the economy was slowing even before the government shutdown began Oct. 1.
Manufacturing production rose only 0.1 percent, the Federal Reserve said Monday. That’s down from a 0.5 percent gain in August, which was slightly lower than previously reported.
Automakers boosted their output in September, but the gain was offset by declines at makers of computers, furniture and appliances.
Overall industrial production increased 0.6 percent in September, mostly because of a 4.4 percent jump in utility output. Utilities had fallen for five months. But September was unseasonably warm, likely increasing air-conditioning use.
Mining output, which includes oil production, rose 0.2 percent, its sixth straight increase.
Factory output is the largest component of industrial production. It had shown signs of rebounding over the summer, raising hopes that factories would help drive economic growth in the second half of the year.
But several reports suggest businesses and consumers had both grown more cautious right before the 16-day partial government shutdown. And hiring has slowed.
Those factors could keep the economy weak until next year.
Orders for industrial machinery and other core capital goods, which signal business confidence in the economy, fell sharply in September, the government said last week.
Economists pay close attention to those orders because they typically signal expansion.
Still, one measure of manufacturing said overall factory activity expanded in September at the fastest pace in 2 1/2 years. The closely watched Institute for Supply Management manufacturing survey noted that production rose and manufacturers stepped up hiring, while new orders jumped, though not as quickly as the previous month.