US manufacturers finish 2020 with solid growth

Boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing plant on December 13, 2020 in Portage, Michigan.

Morry Gash - Pool/Getty Images/AFP

WASHINGTON - American factories that struggled amid the COVID-19 pandemic posted a decent recovery at the end of 2020, government data said on Friday, but the sector still has much ground to recover.

The Federal Reserve said industrial production rose 1.6 percent in December, far above the consensus and the third consecutive month of growth.

Utilities fueled the gains with a 6.2 percent increase as demand for heating rose following unusually warm November weather, the central bank said, while mining increased 1.6 percent, driven by oil extraction and drilling.

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Manufacturing was up 0.9-percent and, if motor vehicles are excluded, up 1.1-percent.

Capacity utilization also rose more than a point to 74.5-percent.

Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said manufacturing was just 2.6-percent below its peak in February before the pandemic hit, and while it had recovered well, it wasn't finished yet.

"The rebound is impressive, thanks to strong demand for goods both at home and abroad, but it likely will take another three months or so just to return to the pre-Covid peak," he said in an analysis.


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