Utilities output jumped 8.6 percent, the largest gain on record, recovering from a 5.8 percent drop in the previous month, as the demand for heating returned to seasonal norms after being suppressed by unusually warm weather in February. Also, mining output edged up 0.1 percent after rising by 2.9 percent in the previous month.
By contrast, manufacturing production fell 0.4 percent, following a 0.3 percent increase in February and missing expectations of a 0.1 percent gain, due to a large step-down in the production of motor vehicles and parts. Factory output aside from motor vehicles and parts moved down 0.2 percent.
Compared to the same month of 2016, industrial output rose 1.5 percent, as output rose for manufacturing (0.8 percent), utilities (4.6 percent) and mining (2.9 percent).
For the first quarter as a whole, industrial production rose at an annual rate of 1.5 percent.
Capacity utilization for the industrial sector increased 0.4 percentage point in March to 76.1 percent, a rate that is 3.8 percentage points below its long-run (1972–2016) average.