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Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. fuel demand in November dropped to the lowest level for the month in 17 years as weakness in the economy curbed consumption of diesel and gasoline, the American Petroleum Institute said.

Total deliveries of petroleum products, a measure of demand, dropped 3.3 percent to 18.5 million barrels a day last month from a year earlier, the industry-funded group said today in a report. Year-to-date consumption has averaged 18.6 million barrels a day, down 2.1 percent from the same period in 2011.

Total demand for distillate fuel, a category that includes diesel and heating oil, tumbled 6.3 percent to 3.85 million barrels a day. Consumption of ultra-low sulfur diesel, the type used on highways, slipped 4.5 percent to average 3.54 million barrels a day, the report showed.

“The economy has shown modest improvement, in employment for example, but the fundamentals of fuel demand fail to indicate a strengthening recovery is imminent,” John Felmy, chief economist with the Washington-based API, said in the report. “Look at the weakness in distillate deliveries, including ultra-low sulfur diesel, which is critical to shipping just about everything in our economy.”

Heating oil consumption dropped 24 percent from a year earlier to 298,000 barrels a day in November, the report showed.

Gasoline demand declined 0.3 percent to 8.51 million barrels a day last month from November 2011.

Jet fuel consumption slipped 0.5 percent to 1.41 million barrels a day last month, according to the API.

U.S. crude-oil production increased 13 percent to 6.79 million barrels a day in November, compared with the same month in 2011. Output in the lower 48 states rose 15 percent to 6.2 million barrels a day. Alaskan production slipped 0.2 percent to 592,000 barrels a day.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Shenk in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at

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