Manufacturing output plunged by 13.7 percent in April, the biggest monthly decline since the Federal Reserve began tracking industrial production more than 100 years ago.
A broader gauge of factory activity also fell to a historic low.
The declines are the latest example of how the coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the U.S. economy, with unemployment skyrocketing as workers stay home to avoid spreading the deadly disease.
The social distancing orders have forced businesses of all sizes to temporarily close, while others have gone under.
The hit to manufacturing is particularly notable since factory workers are considered essential, meaning many of those companies were not required to close up shop.
The factory decline may have political implications as well. President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE campaigned on restoring the manufacturing sector, which has an outsized presence in key swing states such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — all states that Trump won in 2016.
With less than six months until the presidential election, the economy has become one of the most challenging headwinds for Trump as he seeks a second term.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee, said Friday that Trump was responsible for weakening the sector even before the pandemic.
“Well before the coronavirus’s impact on our economy, the ‘blue collar boom’ President Trump spoke of during the State of the Union in January was really a blue collar bust," Beyer said, pointing to Trump's trade war with China.
“Now manufacturing has gone from bad to worse because of President Trump’s horrible handling of a once-in-a-generation public health crisis,” he added.
Updated May 18 at 10:15 a.m.