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3/15/2004
04:39 PM
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Production Of IT Equipment Grows Faster Than Overall Industrial Production

The Federal Reserve says production of computer and office equipment rose a seasonally adjusted 2.1% in February, compared with 0.7% for overall industrial production.

It seems a little like old times--the IT industry leading the general economy, this time in industrial production.

The production of computer and office equipment rose a seasonally adjusted 2.1% in February, according to a preliminary report issued Monday by the Federal Reserve Board. Overall industrial production increased 0.7% last month. Since February 2003, manufacturers have increased production of computer and office wares by 23.4%, well above the overall industrial production increase of 2.7%.

Still, economists like the general direction the economy is taking. Some had forecast the Fed would report a more modest 0.4% gain for the month, so the higher numbers were welcomed. Though technology production surpassed most other sectors, gains were found throughout the manufacturing economy. "This breadth of the recovery bodes well for future production," Daniel Meckstroth, chief economist at research group the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, told The Associated Press.

American computer manufacturers still have plenty of capacity to expand production. In February, makers of computer and electronic products ran their plants at 67.3% of capacity, up 0.5% from January. Factories producing all types of products in the United States in February averaged a 76.6% capacity-utilization rate. Since 1972, computer makers have maintained an average capacity-use rate of 79.1%. In 1994 and 1995, a period of economic expansion often compared with the current one, capacity utilization was much stronger, peaking at 85.3% among computer and electronic products makers.

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