In Brief

Factory lay-offs at fastest rate for seven years

IHS/Markit data reflects ‘uncertainty’ and ‘turmoil’

UK factories are laying off workers at the fastest rate in seven years as the latest monthly manufacturing snapshot shows a seventh month of contraction.

The IHS Markit/Cips report shows the headline purchasing managers’ index slipped to 48.9 in November from 49.6 in October.

“The UK manufacturing downturn continued in November, as businesses responded to the delay to Brexit and a fresh injection of uncertainty from the forthcoming general election,” IHS Markit commented. 

Meanwhile, employment in the sector fell for the eighth month in a row as the pace of job losses was the steepest since 2012, with manufacturers seeking to slash costs. The Guardian says the latest data show that manufacturing “remains in the doldrums” amid “political and economic turmoil”.

Completing the gloomy package, orders fell for the seventh consecutive month, reflecting tougher conditions in the UK and overseas. The drop in new export orders was among the steepest of the past seven years.

Commenting on the data, Rob Dobson, a director at IHS Markit, said: “November saw UK manufacturers squeezed between a rock and hard place as the uncertainty created by a further delay to Brexit was accompanied by growing paralysis ahead of the forthcoming general election.”

Searching for a shred of positivity, Lee Collinson, the head of manufacturing at Barclays, said: “With any new year comes renewed hope, but the certainty the sector longs for needs to come pretty sharpish in 2020 to help bolster the performance of UK manufacturing.”

Meanwhile, Duncan Brock, group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, told The Independent: “A heavy sense of inevitability hung around the sector in November as it continued to suffer the effects of a lethal cocktail of Brexit uncertainty, slowing global growth and an impending general election.”

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