Compared to a year ago, production was up 26.5% for natural gas distribution, the most by far, as furnaces kicked into gear with a return to more seasonable temperatures. Machinery production was up 4.5%, while computer and electronic products production was up 3.9%. Conversely, the worst performance was in apparel and leather goods, production of which was down 6.4%, and aerospace and miscellaneous transportation equipment, which was down 2.5%.
Capacity utilization increased from 75.7% to 76.1%, but was still below the recent peak of 78.9% back in November 2014. This has helped to keep inflation largely subdued outside of energy for the last two years. The utilization rate has been fairly steady since reaching a recent low of 75.4% in March 2016. The most pressure is currently seen in oil and gas extraction, where 95.7% of capacity is in use. Nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying and plastic materials and resin utilization is also high, at 90.7% and 88.6%, respectively. On the flip side, support activities for mining are currently only using 48.1% of capacity.