The UK manufacturing sector shrank for its seventh straight month in November, survey data has shown, causing bosses to cut jobs at the fastest pace in over seven years.
Output and new orders also fell in the sector, which makes up around 10 per cent of the economy, as another Brexit delay and the looming General Election brought fresh uncertainty to British factories.
The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) gauge from data firm IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (Cips) slipped to 48.9 in November, down from 49.6 in October.
The figure was above a previous “flash” estimate of 48.3. A score of below 50 indicates contraction, however, showing that UK manufacturing is shrinking.
The sector has been buffeted in 2019 by a combination of Brexit uncertainty and a global economic slowdown, which has dented foreign demand.
The upcoming General Election on 12 December has done little to boost manufacturers’ confidence. Duncan Brock, group director Cips, called the combination of the latest Brexit delay, slowing global growth and the election a “lethal cocktail”.
He added: “Supply chain managers cited weakened domestic demand and one of the biggest falls in export orders for seven years as companies unravelled their pre-Brexit stocks and resulting in one of steepest reductions in purchasing since 2013.”
“Firms tried to balance their books by reducing overheads and improving efficiencies quickly, and staff numbers were the casualties.”
IHS Markit director Rob Dobson said one bright spot was “rising demand for consumer goods”. He said this was the latest sign of “a two-speed economy” as “households continue to provide some support”.