Manufacturers are facing a "bleak winter" after suffering further falls in orders and staff levels in November, a survey revealed today.
The Markit/CIPS purchasing managers' index (PMI) survey, where a reading below 50 indicates a contraction, fell to 47.6 in November, down from 47.8 the previous month and its lowest since early 2009, when the UK was in recession.
The downturn in output accelerated in the month, leaving the sector on track to contract in the final quarter of 2011, as the eurozone debt crisis hit exports and confidence at home.
This triggered the biggest fall in employment for two years, with warnings of more cutbacks on the way unless order books pick up.
CIPS chief executive David Noble said: "It looks like it's going to be a bleak winter for UK manufacturers with the PMI showing very little to be positive about at the moment."
Rob Dobson, senior economist at Markit, added: "The manufacturing engine has run out of steam.
"The lack of new work is forcing manufacturers to rely on previously placed orders to avoid sharper cutbacks in output and employment.
"This cannot go on indefinitely, and job losses will inevitably mount if order books continue to weaken."