Manufacturers receive 'welcome' boost but services outlook flat

 
Jasper Jolly
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Manufacturing orders strengthened in the third quarter (Source: Getty)

British manufacturers enjoyed their strongest quarter since the start of 2015, in spite of “muted” growth in the broader economy, according to analysis based on a massive survey of UK businesses published today.

The British Chambers of Commerce’s quarterly economic survey of more than 7,000 firms showed the net balance of firms reporting increased sales rose to the highest levels, well above 25 per cent, since the first quarter of 2015 for both domestic buyers and exports.

Suren Thiru, BCC head of economics, said: “The manufacturing sector saw a welcome improvement across a number of indicators, boosted in part by stronger growth in key export markets. However, the relative size of the sector means that its contribution to UK GDP growth is likely to have remained limited this quarter.”

Read more: Slowing manufacturing output holds back UK economy

Figures for the dominant services sector, which accounts for almost 80 per cent of British output, show confidence remaining mostly unchanged over the quarter, albeit still below levels seen before the EU referendum in June 2016.

Services exports remained flat in the third quarter, with the balance of firms reporting improved improved sales abroad edging up. Domestic sales remained completely unchanged.

Adam Marshall, BCC director general, said: “The uninspiring results we see in our third quarter findings reflect the fact that political uncertainty, currency fluctuations and the vagaries of the Brexit process are continuing to weigh on business growth prospects.”

The percentage of businesses attempting to hire workers rose, rising from 49 per cent in the second quarter to 52 per cent.

However, a separate survey published yesterday by accountants BDO shows firms expect the economy to improve gradually over the next few months, after a strong improvement in the business climate.

Read more: British manufacturing records first "significant" production growth of 2017

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