Industrial production fell 0.2 percent in March after an increase of 0.8 percent in February, while manufacturing output climbed 0.7 percent in March, according to statistics released Tuesday from the Federal Reserve.
The increase in the manufacturing sector was led by advances in the production of durable goods.
At 112.5 percent of its 2002 average, overall industrial production for March was 2.3 percent above its year-earlier level. The rate of capacity utilization for total industry fell 0.2 percentage point, to 81.4 percent, a level 0.4 percentage point above its 1972-2006 average.
Utility output dropped 7.0 percent, mostly reversing the February increase of 7.6 percent, as temperatures fluctuated from below seasonal norms in February to above seasonal norms in March.
The factory operating rate rose 0.4 percentage point, to 80.1 percent. The production of durable goods went up 0.9 percent after having edged up in February.
The indexes for nonmetallic mineral products, machinery, computer and electronic products, and miscellaneous manufacturing all increased 1.0 percent or more; these gains more than offset decreases in the indexes for wood products, furniture and related products, and aerospace and miscellaneous transportation equipment.
The index for nondurable manufacturing went up 0.5 percent; gains were seen in the indexes for food, beverage, and tobacco products; chemicals; and plastics and rubber products. The indexes for textile and product mills and for leather and apparel both dropped more than 0.5 percent.
The drop in utilities output was especially pronounced for natural gas utilities, which recorded a decrease in output of 14.7 percent; the output of electric utilities dropped 5.4 percent.