The Big Four Recession Indicators: Industrial Production Falls in October

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: Industrial Production

Industrial production declined for the first time in four months in October. On a monthly basis, industrial production fell 0.6%, a larger drop that the projected 0.3% decline. Additionally, compared to one year ago, industrial production showed a decrease of 0.68%.

Here is the overview from the Federal Reserve:

Industrial production declined 0.6 percent in October. Manufacturing output fell 0.7 percent. Much of this decline was due to a 10 percent drop in the output of motor vehicles and parts that was affected by strikes at several major manufacturers of motor vehicles—the index for manufacturing excluding motor vehicles and parts edged up 0.1 percent. The index for utilities decreased 1.6 percent, and the output of mines increased 0.4 percent. Total industrial production in October was 0.7 percent below its year-earlier level. Capacity utilization moved down 0.6 percentage point to 78.9 percent in October, a rate that is 0.8 percentage point below 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.

Industrial Production year over year