NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Production in U.S. factories, mines and utilities fell in March, the government said Friday, defying analysts' forecasts for growth as industrial demand struggles to recover from a prolonged slump.
Industrial production in March fell 0.2 percent after a revised 0.8 percent gain in February, the Federal Reserve reported. Economists' expected a rise of 0.3 percent in March, according to Briefing.com.
Capacity utilization, the percentage of production capacity used in March, came in at 76.5 percent, below February's revised 76.7 percent and economists' estimates of 76.8 percent.
Since a downturn that began in the second half of 2000, more than 2.7 million manufacturing jobs have been lost, and some economists believe many of them will never return as companies continue to ship manufacturing positions overseas to countries with cheaper labor.
However, manufacturing wasn't to blame for the decline in the March figures as it remained flat from February. Production at mines fell 0.3 percent, and output at utilities dropped 2.3 percent due to unseasonable warm weather, the Fed reported.