WASHINGTON -- U.S. factories produced more consumer goods, business equipment and raw materials in March, boosting manufacturing activity for the ninth straight month.

The Federal Reserve says output at the nation's factories, mines and utilities increased 0.8 percent last month after edging up 0.1 percent in February. The previous month's results were dragged down by a weather-related drop in utility production.

Factory production, the largest single segment of industrial production, increased 0.7 percent last month. Manufacturing has been a key driver of economic growth since the recession ended. That continued last month, even with supply chain disruptions stemming from the crisis in Japan.

Overall industrial production has risen about 11 percent since its recession-low in June 2009. It is still 8 percent below its pre-recession peak, reached in September 2007.