Manufacturing sector sees highest growth in 18 years

THE strongest growth figures in 18 years have provided more evidence of a sustained recovery in Britain’s manufacturing sector.

Stephen Gifford
Stephen Gifford

The CBI’s survey of nearly 350 factory managers found that total order books and output growth were the highest recorded since 1995.

Manufacturers also told the business lobby group that they expect growth to continue at a robust pace over the coming three months.

Stephen Gifford, director of economics at the CBI, said: “This new evidence shows encouraging signs of a broadening and deepening recovery in the manufacturing sector.

“Manufacturers finally seem to be feeling the benefit of growing confidence and spending within the UK and globally.

“Both order books and the pace of output growth are the strongest they’ve been since 1995, and firms are expecting similar-paced growth over the coming three months as well.”

The key finding of the survey showed that a positive balance of 11 per cent of firms believed order books were above normal in November, helped by signs of a continued recovery among exporters.

The rise in output growth was broad-based, with all but one of 15 sub-sectors – electrical engineering – reporting growth.

Despite the progress, Mr Gifford said challenges remain for UK manufacturers.

“UK exporters need government support to break into high-growth export markets to reduce their vulnerability to any further eurozone flare-ups.”

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, welcomed the CBI figures as “very good news”.

“The robust survey indicates that the manufacturing sector is not only extending the healthy expansion seen in the third quarter – when output rose 0.9 per cent quarter-on-quarter – into the final quarter, but could even be gaining momentum,” he said.

“This bodes well for fourth quarter GDP growth prospects, although it must be borne in mind that industrial production only accounts for 15.2 per cent of national output.”

The Office for National Statistics reported 2.2 per cent annual industrial output growth in September, the fastest in more than two years, helped by a rebound in oil and gas production.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders yesterday reported the strongest growth in car production so far this year, driven mostly by domestic de- mand.

Across the Channel, latest surveys show growth in Germany was resurgent, but French business activity took a tumble and contracted, underlining the lopsided nature of the eurozone’s recovery from recession.

China also reported a slower pace of growth in its vast factory sector.