The Economy Is Still Weak

by: John M. Mason


Industrial production was down in February from January.

Capacity utilization still lags.

Labor figures indicate that labor usage is still weak.

Monday it seemed as if there was a lot of excitement about the February numbers on Industrial Production.

I was not able to look at these data until today. Year-over-year rate of growth of industrial production in February was 2.8 percent - DOWN from January 2014. And DOWN from December 2013, DOWN from November 2013, and DOWN from October 2013.

Right now it looks as if the first quarter numbers will exceed those of the third quarter of last year, but they are certainly going to come in under the fourth quarter.

So where is the pickup in economic growth?

It seems as if the economy still continues to chug along, but it certainly does not seem to be picking up steam like all those people seeing green shoots seem to think.

Likewise, capacity utilization in manufacturing seems to be struggling alone. In February, capacity utilization came in at 78.8 percent, up from January, but below the current high that was achieved last November.

This is still substantially below the peak in capacity utilization that was during the last economic upswing, and that number was 80.2 percent.

Furthermore, in the labor market, the labor participation rate was 63 percent a figure that was achieved in April 1978, except that the labor participation rate was going up at that time and not down.

In addition, the average weekly hours worked by American labor was at 34.2 hours. One has to go back to January 2011 to find this low number.

None of these series indicates that the United States economy is picking up much speed. The economy is growing, but the best one can say is that the growth is still on the mediocre side.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.