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August Fed Figures Show Real Manufacturing Growth Dragged Down by Harvey Effect on Gulf Energy Complex

THE TAKEAWAY: Hurricane Harvey’s devastation of the energy-rich Texas and Louisiana Gulf coasts slammed into America’s after-inflation manufacturing output in August as well, as the Federal Reserve’s new industrial production figures showed real manufacturing output down 0.26 percent on month due mainly to fall-offs in chemical industries that use oil and gas as feedstocks. As a result, constant dollar non-durable goods output fell in August by its greatest monthly total (0.86 percent) since January, 2014 (1.20 percent), and overall chemicals production sank by its greatest sequential amount (2.15 percent) since recessionary December, 2008 (4.85 percent). After-inflation production was off by the greatest monthly totals since that time in basic chemicals; organic chemicals; and especially in resins, synthetic rubber, and artificial and synthetic fibers and filaments. The most affected industry was fibers and filaments, where price-adjusted output plummeted by 9.10 percent – the worst such performance in this volatile sector since November, 2008 (11.25 percent).

Here are the manufacturing highlights of the Federal Reserve’s new release on August industrial production:

  • Hurricane Harvey’s devastation of the energy-rich Texas and Louisiana Gulf coasts devastated enough of the nation’s chemicals industry to create a 0.26 percent monthly sequential drop in real manufacturing output in August.
  • The decline was heavily concentrated in chemicals, and especially in sectors highly dependent on Gulf oil and gas as feedstocks.
  • The Harvey effects could first be seen in the non-durable goods sector in which chemicals industries are found. Its August inflation-adjusted production decreased by 0.86 percent – the worst sequential performance since January, 2014’s 1.20 percent fall-off.
  • The enormous chemicals industry suffered as well, with price-adjusted production down 2.15 percent on month in August – its biggest such decline since December, 2008’s 4.85 percent, at the nadir of the Great Recession.
  • Similar multi-year worsts were registered in basic chemicals, organic chemicals, and the resin, synthetic rubber, and artificial and synthetic fibers and filaments grouping. The latter two segments – which often displays volatile production patterns – saw real output dive in August on month by 9.10 percent, the greatest drop since November, 2008’s 11.25 percent.
  • The hit to oil refineries so far has been more modest – their constant dollar output was off on month by just 1.93 percent. Nonetheless, this represented the biggest such decline since June, 2014’s 2.06 percent.

ALAN TONELSON
Alan Tonelson is Founder of the blog 
RealityChek – www.alantonelson.wordpress.com – which covers a wide range of domestic and international policy issues along with political and social trends.

For 18 years before leaving to launch RealityChek, Tonelson followed the impact of globalization on the U.S. economy, domestic manufacturing, and U.S. national security for the U.S. Business and Industry Council. This national business organization represents nearly 2,000 domestic American companies, most of them small and medium-sized manufacturers.

Alan Tonelson is a regular columnist with Industry Today.



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