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U.S. manufacturing output, hours worked, and productivity recover from COVID-19

October 07, 2022

After the COVID-19 pandemic began, manufacturing output fell at a 43-percent annual rate and hours worked fell at a 38-percent rate in the second quarter of 2020. These were the largest declines since World War II. Motor vehicle production virtually ceased, and some of the plants that stayed open even pitched in to produce ventilators. Other major manufacturing industries hit hard include primary metals, fabricated metal products, machinery, food and beverage and tobacco products, and chemicals. No major industry was immune to the second quarter declines.

Output indexes for selected manufacturing industries, fourth quarter 2019 to second quarter 2022
Quarter Motor vehicles and parts Fabricated metals Machinery Computer and electronic products Food, beverage, and tobacco Chemical

Q4 2019

100.000 100.000 100.000 100.000 100.000 100.000

Q1 2020

95.685 98.759 98.651 101.426 100.401 100.340

Q2 2020

50.909 88.513 82.715 96.748 95.874 95.359

Q3 2020

106.697 90.778 91.711 99.450 99.762 98.058

Q4 2020

103.929 92.217 93.317 99.013 100.652 99.919

Q1 2021

99.752 93.284 97.322 100.175 101.182 97.275

Q2 2021

94.945 94.270 98.902 104.468 100.186 104.265

Q3 2021

95.004 95.333 101.791 107.053 99.553 104.419

Q4 2021

99.800 97.636 102.902 107.967 100.603 105.851

Q1 2022

100.424 98.914 106.734 107.321 102.206 105.610

Q2 2022

106.137 99.438 105.518 107.332 102.202 106.661

The motor vehicle industry was the driving force in the immediate recovery, as manufacturing output recovered within 5 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Motor vehicle and parts production declined over the next three quarters—due in part to supply-chain disruptions. At the same time, many other industries continued to recover, led by computer and electronic products, chemicals, and machinery, resulting in overall manufacturing output growth.

Manufacturing output surged back in the third quarter of 2020. The annualized gains in manufacturing output (53 percent) and hours worked (30 percent) in the third quarter of 2020 were the largest ever recorded. Output recovered faster than hours worked, resulting in a historically high increase in manufacturing productivity of 18 percent. Manufacturing productivity increased more than 9 percent in the second quarter of 2021, the quarter with the largest decline in hours worked since the second quarter of 2020.

Indexes of output, hours worked, and labor productivity in manufacturing, fourth quarter 2019 to second quarter 2022
Quarter Output Hours worked Productivitiy

Q4 2019

100.000 100.000 100.000

Q1 2020

98.615 98.122 100.504

Q2 2020

85.627 87.056 98.359

Q3 2020

95.235 92.934 102.477

Q4 2020

97.154 94.700 102.592

Q1 2021

97.784 95.676 102.203

Q2 2021

99.152 94.870 104.513

Q3 2021

100.076 96.352 103.866

Q4 2021

101.512 97.779 103.819

Q1 2022

102.451 98.982 103.506

Q2 2022

103.465 98.812 104.709

Manufacturing output has continued to grow steadily through the second quarter of 2022 and was 3.5 percent above the level in the fourth quarter of 2019, the last quarter not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hours worked in manufacturing increased in all but two quarters since the third quarter of 2020 and have recovered to within 1.2 percent of the level in the fourth quarter of 2019. Labor productivity in manufacturing was 4.7 percent higher in the second quarter of 2022 than in the fourth quarter of 2019.

These data are from the Productivity program and are subject to revision. Labor productivity, or output per hour, is calculated by dividing an index of real output by an index of hours worked for all persons, including employees, proprietors, and unpaid family workers.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, U.S. manufacturing output, hours worked, and productivity recover from COVID-19 at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2022/u-s-manufacturing-output-hours-worked-and-productivity-recover-from-covid-19.htm (visited November 29, 2022).

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