U.S. Factories Emerge as a Strong Point in a Weakening Economy

It’s been a very good year for U.S. manufacturing.

Factories added 467,000 jobs in the last 12 months. And factory production in September was the highest in 14 years, according to the Federal Reserve.

Even as other industries struggle under the weight of rising interest rates, factories keep churning out products to meet consumers’ insatiable demand for cars, computers and candy bars. Now manufacturers are working to expand their capabilities, while struggling with supply and labor scarcities and looking to the near-future, where some economists and many on Wall Street say a recession looms.

While the new Federal Reserve data show factory production is still growing, there are anecdotal signs that demand for manufactured goods may be slowing.

A recent survey by the Institute for Supply Management found new factory orders declined last month. And manufacturing managers have grown more cautious about replacing workers when they quit or retire.