Industrial production nears pre-recession record level

INDUSTRIAL production in May virtually matched the record pre-recession output of June 1990, official figures showed yesterday.

It barely rose during the month, partly reflecting upward revisions of earlier months. But at 102.0, the May production index nearly matched the 102.1 achieved in June 1990 and beats the 101.6 average for the peak second quarter of 1990.

The Central Statistical Office said that in the latest three months industrial production rose a seasonally adjusted 1.3 per cent over the previous quarter and 4.6 per cent over the same period last year.

Industrial production, comprising manufacturing, electricity, gas and water supply, mining, quarrying, oil and gas extraction, accounts for some 28 per cent of national output.

Factory output of manufactured goods - the most significant component of production - rose a gentle 0.3 per cent during May. This reflected an upward revision to earlier months.

Unlike overall production, factory output has yet to match the record struck in the second quarter 1990. Compared with a 1990 base of 100, manufacturing output now stands at 98.4.

In the latest three months, manufacturing output increased by 1.2 per cent and was 2.3 per cent higher than a year earlier. The CSO estimated that manufacturing output was expanding at an annual rate of 4.5 per cent up from 4 per cent last month.

The steepest increase in manufacturing came in output of coke, refined petroleum and nuclear fuels, up 2.6 per cent in the latest three-month period. Engineering rose by 1.9 per cent due to higher electronics output and increased motor vehicle production.

Oil and gas production has been buoyant for months as many new fields, especially gas-producing ones, come on stream. Some of these are still building towards full production.

Separately, the Treasury's latest monthly monetary report yesterday suggested little risk of an imminent increase in base rates. There was scant evidence that tax increases had begun to hit consumption while inflation developments were mixed.

New car sales, page 33.