A swinging bench hangs from a tree after a disastrous snow storm on February 18 in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo: AFP / Ron Jenkins / GETTY IMAGES

US overall industrial production fell 2.2% in February, the Federal Reserve said on Tuesday, a worse-than-expected figured caused by winter storms that knocked plants offline in parts of the country.

“The severe winter weather in the south central region of the country in mid-February accounted for the bulk of the declines in output for the month,” the central bank said.

The overfall industrial production figure that fell 2.2% includes not only manufacturing but also other outputs. The manufacturing output component alone fell 3.1% in the month and mining lost 5.4%, the report said. But utilities output increased 7.4% compared with January.

And overall production remains 4.2% below the February 2020 level.

Severe and unusual winter storms shuttered businesses and knocked out power in Texas, the country’s second most-populous state.

“Most notably, some petroleum refineries, petrochemical facilities, and plastic resin plants suffered damage from the deep freeze and were offline for the rest of the month,” the Fed said.

The central bank noted that without that storm, manufacturing would have fallen only around 0.5% nationwide, while mining would have increased by the same amount.

February’s decline was the worst since the Covid-19 pandemic began last year and also partly fueled by the global shortage in semiconductors, said Oren Klachkin of Oxford Economics.

But he predicted government stimulus spending and the deployment of Covid-19 vaccines would restore growth in months ahead, though its pace could moderate as the service sector reopens later in the year.

“Healthy goods demand, healing business investment and historic fiscal stimulus are set to propel solid industrial sector growth,” he said.