BRUSSELS (AP) -- Industrial output in the 16 nations that use the euro sank 17 percent in May from a year earlier, the EU statistics agency said Tuesday, a somewhat milder drop than in the previous two months.
Demand for European goods at home and abroad has slumped dramatically during the downturn. Manufacturers expect orders to improve slightly in coming months as companies restock after a recent spending freeze.
Eurostat said industrial output climbed 0.5 percent in May compared to the previous month, when it fell 0.8 percent on the month.
From a year ago, industrial production is still slumping, following a record 21.6 percent fall in April and 19.3 percent in March. Eurostat said output fell in all euro nations where it had data, with Finland booking the sharpest drop at 23.2 percent.
Components for industry were down 23.4 percent from May last year, durable consumer goods -- such as washing machines and televisions -- dropped 22.1 percent. Nondurable consumer goods suffered far less, down just 2.2 percent.
Europe's export-driven economy relies heavily on industrial output and its recovery, whenever it comes, will provide a clear indication that the worst of the recession is over.