The makers and miners of the UK economy step up a gear

Industrial production is up 0.7% in March, says the ONS, with UK factories ramping up their output for a second month.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
Industrial production, which includes UK manufacturing, mining and utilities, has had its second successive fillip. Output as a whole rose 0.7% in March, driven by a 1.1% jump in manufacturing. This is the first back-to-back monthly increase in production since the first quarter of 2011.

The data suggests that our goods-making sector is getting back on its feet and, rather than acting as a drag on the economy (it contracted 1.4% in the fourth quarter of last year), is backing up growth in the services sector to drive a wider economic recovery. Happily for government, the figures also thrash analysts’ forecasts of just 0.2 - 0.3% growth for the month (according to a Reuters poll), which means that the UK economy is edging further away from another recession.

Looking at the first quarter as a whole, industrial production is up 0.2%; a vast improvement on the 2.1% decline seen in the fourth quarter.
And this isn’t the only data to get the thumbs up from economists. The Markit/CIPS Manufacturing PMI also points to a strong start to the second quarter of 2013. April PMIs showed the fastest growth of output since January, and UK exports are also rising at strongest rate since mid-2011. All this on top of the slight (but gratifying) 0.3% increase in GDP recorded for the first quarter of 2013. Plus the FTSE has just seen an 11-month rally.
What does this mean for the health of the nation? Well, the figures are evidence of a recovery in the industrial sector, which means that Bank of England policymakers will probably hold off on any more economic stimulus. It also means that despite the lackluster performance of government’s Funding for Lending scheme, firms are managing to grow on their own.

Can our industrial sector keeping the production line chugging along at this rate for another successive quarter? If it can, that mythical recovery we’ve all been banging on about may be closer at hand than we think.

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