Improvement in operating conditions

The UK manufacturing sector remained resilient in May, sustaining most of the growth momentum gained during the prior survey month, according to Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI). At 56.7, the seasonally adjusted IHS was only slightly below April’s three-year high of 57.3 and signalled an improvement in operating conditions for the tenth successive month.

Manufacturing production and new orders both expanded at above survey average rates. Companies benefited most from the continued strength of the domestic market. There was also a solid increase in new export business as well.

Overseas demand improved due to a combination of the historically weak sterling exchange rate and manufacturers’ efforts to promote and launch new products in foreign markets. The level of incoming new export orders rose for the 13th month in a row, with the rate of growth broadly in line with the average for that sequence.

Optimism regarding the outlook for production levels in one year’s time improved to a 20-month high, with 56% of manufacturers forecasting output to rise during the next 12 months.

Employment rose for the tenth consecutive month in May, with the rate of jobs growth the fastest since June 2014.

However, this news coincided with a new study by the GMB, which said the UK has “haemorrhaged more than 600,000 manufacturing jobs in the past decade”.

The figures show that 619,000 jobs in the sector disappeared from 2006 to 2016, a fall of 17%.

In 2006, the UK supported 3.5 million permanent and temporary manufacturing jobs – more than 12% of the all British employment. By 2016, that had dropped to 2.9 million, or 9.3% of the total.

Jude Brimble, GMB national secretary for manufacturing, said: “The UK is haemorrhaging manufacturing jobs – and that is a massive problem for both our workers and our economy.”


Photo courtesy of Epwin.