U.S. industrial production declined 0.2 percent in November, the first drop in seven months, the Federal Reserve said, indicating a cooling of expansion by a manufacturing sector that has been one of the economy’s bright spots this year.
Production at factories, mines and utilities declined 0.2 percent after a 0.7 percent gain in October. Factory production, which makes up 75 percent of the total, decreased 0.4 percent, the first decline since April. Factory production rose 0.5 percent in October.
Motor vehicle and part production declined 3.4 percent, erasing the prior month’s gain, partly because of disruptions from flooding in Thailand. Manufacturing excluding autos and parts dropped 0.2 percent following a 0.3 percent October rise.
By the Numbers: JOC-ECRI Industrial Price Index
Manufacturing capacity utilization slipped to 77.8 percent from an upwardly revised 78 percent in October. The reading compares with the 79.5 percent average over the past 20 years.
In a separate report Thursday, the Labor Department said the number of U.S. workers filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level since May 2008 last week.
Initial jobless claims fell by 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000 in the week ended Dec. 10. It was the second straight week new claims had fallen by 19,000. For the week ended Dec. 3, claims were revised to 385,000 from an originally reported 381,000.
The four-week moving average of new jobless claims, closely watched by economists because it smoothes out volatile weekly data, dropped last week by 6,500 to 387,750, the lowest level since July 2008.
The four-week average has remained below 400,000 for five consecutive weeks, an indication the economy is starting to add more jobs than it’s losing, but the Federal Reserve expects the unemployment rate to remain near its current 8.6 percent level in 2012.