'March of the makers' at a standstill

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The Independent Online

Britain's manufacturing sector, which ministers hoped would power the country to a robust economic recovery in a "march of the makers", has gone into reverse, official figures confirmed yesterday.

The Office for National Statistics's seasonally-adjusted index of manufacturing dropped by 0.7 per cent in October, the biggest monthly fall since April. The ONS production index – which includes energy and mining companies – also declined by 0.7 per cent over the month.

The fall in manufacturing output was led by contractions in metals, repair industries and pharmaceuticals. Warm weather also resulted in a sharp fall in energy production, with gas and electricity output down 4.9 per cent.

Manufacturing has eked out growth of just 0.3 per cent over the past year. The industrial sector as a whole is now 1.7 per cent below where it was in October 2010. Analysts warned that manufacturing contraction, after weak figures from the services sector, meant Britain was likely to experience a double-dip recession.

"This is another release in a long line of weak data," said Nida Ali, of the Ernst and Young Item club. "We expect the economy to stagnate at best but a decline in GDP is looking increasingly likely."

The manufacturing slump is especially disappointing news for the Chancellor. In his Budget speech in March, George Osborne boasted that manufacturing was growing at a record rate and said he wanted the UK to be "carried aloft by the march of the makers".

0.7 per cent

The fall in manufacturing output in October – the biggest fall since April.