08 June 2009 | Martha McKenzie- Minifie
The UK all-sectors Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) last month rose above the 50 mark for the first time since March last year - moving into growth ahead of other European economies.
The figures were viewed by some commentators as the first tentative signs of the end of the downturn.
Roy Ayliffe, CIPS professional practice director, told SM: "It is the first green shoot."
The all-sectors figure combines the CIPS/Markit PMIs on services, construction and manufacturing, weighted to take into account their relative size in the overall economy.
It recorded 50.4 last month (below 50 represents contraction). It was 46.8 in April, and 48.8 in May last year.
Business activity in the services sector, including catering (pictured) recorded 51.7 last month, up from 48.7 in April - the fifth-largest monthly gain in the survey's history.
Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said the expansion, while marginal, was "notable" because it occurred at a time when comparable indices for other European countries remained "firmly mired in contraction".
Ayliffe warned: "There's a long way to go to claw back gains of the past few years."