The Big Four: Industrial Production Rose 0.5% in April

This article was originally written by Doug Short. From 2016-2022, it was improved upon and updated by Jill Mislinski. Starting in January 2023, AP Charts pages will be maintained by Jennifer Nash at Advisor Perspectives/VettaFi.

Official recession calls are the responsibility of the NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee, which is understandably vague about the specific indicators on which it bases its decisions. This committee statement is about as close as it gets to identifying its method.

There is, however, a general belief that there are four big indicators that the committee weighs heavily in their cycle identification process. They are:

The Latest Indicator Data

This morning's report revealed industrial production numbers rose 0.5% in April, higher than the forecast of a 0.1% decline. The annual change rose to 0.24%, up from last month's downwardly revised increase of 0.07%.

Here is the overview from the Federal Reserve:

Industrial production rose 0.5 percent in April after moving sideways the previous two months. In April, manufacturing increased 1.0 percent, bolstered by a strong gain in the output of motor vehicles and parts; factory output excluding motor vehicles and parts moved up 0.4 percent. The index for mining rose 0.6 percent, while the index for utilities dropped 3.1 percent, as milder temperatures in April lowered demand for heating. At 103.0 percent of its 2017 average, total industrial production in April was 0.2 percent above its year-earlier level. Capacity utilization edged up to 79.7 percent in April, a rate that is equal to its long-run (1972–2022) average. [view full report]

The chart below shows the year-over-year percentage change in industrial production since the series inception in 1919. The current level is lower than at the onset of 15 of 18 recessions over this time frame of nearly a century.