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UK manufacturing output shows early signs of recovery

Manufacturing output may have increased in May from record lows in April as production began to build back up again for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak, according to new figures.

According to data compiled by business advisory BDO, UK manufacturing output jumped by more than 16 points in May – a record monthly rise that regains around half the losses sustained between March and April.

The BDO’s Manufacturing Output Index figure of 69.55 is still extremely low by historic levels and well short of the 95 level which indicates positive growth overall. Nevertheless, it is the first early sign of recovery, with better results expected for June if lockdown measures continue to ease.

Commenting on the results, Kaley Crossthwaite, Partner at BDO LLP, said: 

“While the jump in manufacturing output offers a glimmer of hope, early signs point to this being a long road to recovery. The UK is experiencing the deepest economic contraction in living memory, and possibly in its history.

“Output remains drastically below where it would be in ordinary times, but the latest readings suggest we have passed the rock bottom of this crisis.”

The Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for May, published separately by IHS Markit, also rose slightly compared to April, although the survey suggests output continued to fall during the month rather than rise. 

Rob Dobson, Director at IHS Markit, said:

“The glass-half-full perspective is one where the rate of contraction has eased considerably since April, meaning – absent a resurgence of infections – the worst of the production downturn may be behind us. Pressure on manufacturers should ease further as lockdown restrictions are loosened, customers return to work and global activity restarts.”

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