22 August 2002 | Robin Parker
The Commonwealth Games has helped Manchester manufacturers buck the national trend for falling demand.
The north west region posted its first increase in output for more than two years, according to the Confederation of British Industry's (CBI) quarterly regional trends survey.
The growth was due mainly to new orders to help meet stadium requirements for the games, which concluded earlier this month.
But UK production as a whole declined, with the sharpest falls in output in Yorkshire and the Humber and the East Midlands.
The only other regions of the UK to have expanded production were Scotland and Wales, which are confident of improved export opportunities during the rest of this year.
Smaller manufacturers across the UK have been hit by a sharp fall in orders with no immediate signs of recovery, according to a separate CBI report.
New orders fell at 38 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the past four months. Production fell at a third of firms, and rose at less than a quarter.
SMEs now predict that orders and output will at best stabilise in the next four months, suggesting they will not recover.
Simon Bartley, chair of the CBI's SME council, said small manufacturers remain disappointed. "The recession still has a tight grip, despite last quarter's confident expectations.
"All UK manufacturers, regardless of size, will be hoping for a sorely needed pick-up in global demand."
The CBI's data follows an Office for National Statistics report that UK factory production fell by 5.3 per cent in June, its largest monthly fall in 23 years. Much of this was due to the Golden Jubilee, when some factories were closed for a week.
The findings back up the CIPS/NTC Research purchasing managers' index, which shrank for the first time this year in July.