UK factory output grew at the quickest pace in nearly four years in the first quarter of the year, ONS data shows.
After positive news emerged about UK manufacturing earlier this week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published the latest figures demonstrating improvement across the sector.
The most recent Index of Production showed that factory output rose by 1.4 per cent in the UK over the first three months of this year – higher than the 1.3 per cent increase that was predicted last month and the fastest rate of quarterly improvement since 2010.
Industrial production overall rose by 0.7 per cent over the quarter – slightly below the estimated 0.8 per cent figure, but enough to indicate that the sector is beginning to get back on its feet.
Encouragingly, it looks as though the economy is continuing to rebalance in line with the government’s intention to shift the economy back towards manufacture and exports to reduce the nation’s existing trade debt. The UK’s trade balance in goods shrank more than had been expected to £8.478 billion, the smallest figure since December.
Manufacturers’ organisation EEF says that although the figures show how important the sector is to the country’s economic health, it remains cautious about the export landscape for many British firms trading overseas.
“The export picture remains decidedly mixed,” says Neil Prothero, deputy chief economist at EEF. “Trade data showed a welcome pick-up in goods exports in March, but this was not enough to offset earlier weakness, implying a negative contribution from net exports over the first quarter.”
Nevertheless, it comes at the end of a positive week for the country’s manufacturers.
On Tuesday, figures from the SME Trends Survey published by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) show that smaller firms in particular are enjoying an outburst of optimism, with confidence at its highest level since records began more than 25 years ago.
“As confidence beds in, we need to see more firms exporting their products to high-growth markets across the globe, giving a healthy and sustainable boost to the UK’s recovery,” CBI chief policy director Katja Hall said at the time.
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