LONDON (AP) -- Industrial activity in Europe continued to plunge in January, according to official statistics Friday, as the economic crisis caused manufacturers to shut down plants, cut work hours, and delay investments.
From December to January, industrial production shrank 3.5 percent across the 16 nations that share the euro currency and 2.9 percent in the wider 27-member European Union, the Eurostat statistical office said.
The sharpest drops occurred in Latvia and Portugal, down 11.2 percent and 9.8 percent, while Germany -- Europe's largest economy and manufacturer and the world's biggest exporter -- saw a 7.5 percent fall.
The sectors hardest hit by the economic downturn were those producing tools, parts and components for other manufacturers as well as makers of durable consumer goods, such as cars and home appliances.
The production of energy and non-durables -- such as food -- also suffered.
Compared with a year earlier, industrial activity was 17.3 percent weaker in the euro area and 16.3 percent lower across the EU.
Germany's output was 19.1 percent lower, while Spain, Sweden and the Baltics saw sharp drops as well.