Compared to a year ago, production was up 7.3% for mining and 7.0% for petroleum and coal products. Conversely, the worst performance was in natural gas distribution, which was down 10.7%, apparel and leather goods, production of which was down 4.7%, and aerospace and transportation equipment, production of which was down 3.1%.
Capacity utilization increased from 76.1% to 76.7%, but was still below the recent peak of 79.2% 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, but April’s reading is a bit of a breakout from the recent trend. The most pressure is currently seen in oil and gas extraction, where 96.4% of capacity is in use. Nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying and plastic materials and resin utilization is also high, at 91.1% and 89.4%, respectively. On the flip side, support activities for mining are only using 52.1% of capacity.