UK manufacturing in grip of 'winter of discontent'

2 April 2013

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2 April 2013 | Adam Leach

Weak demand for goods at home and abroad prompted UK manufacturers to scale back production and purchasing in March as activity in the sector declined for the second month running.

The Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index recorded a figure of 48.3 for the month, indicating a contraction in activity from the month before. While the rate of decline slowed to 48.3 compared with February’s score of 47.9, activity dropped across the board.

Production and new orders were down and output fell at the fastest rate since October, while new business wins also fell, although at a slower rate of contraction. Respondents to the survey cited poor business conditions, subdued client confidence and bad weather conditions as contributing factors. Employment in the sector also fell for the eighth consecutive month.

David Noble, CEO at CIPS, said: “Manufacturers’ winter of discontent extended into March, with continued weak demand at home and abroad, increased costs and constraints on investment all conspiring against the sector, leading to the eighth consecutive month of job losses. As a result, output in manufacturing has fallen at the fastest pace since October and the absence of new orders brings little hope of an uplift in spring.”

Rob Dobson, senior economist at Markit, said: “March PMI data indicates that the UK manufacturing sector contracted again during the opening quarter of 2013 to remain a drag on the broader economy. These weak numbers may be sufficient to tip the balance and convince more members of the monetary policy committee to consider additional quantitative easing at their meeting next week.”

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