The gloomy snapshot of manufacturing in the Confederation of British Industry's latest survey came hard on the heels of the revelation in yesterday's Independent that Ian Lang, President of the Board of Trade, has warned other ministers of possible job losses in industry in the run-up to the election.
In a letter to William Waldegrave, Treasury Chief Secretary, he said: "Either manufacturers are extremely optimistic about future prospects or we should expect to see employment falling over the next few months."
The CBI's regular survey of more than a thousand firms showed that for the first time since October 1993 there were as many reporting a falling as a rising volume of output. Confidence about future output has declined for the past year. The balance of firms cutting rather than creating jobs fell to minus 14 per cent, the worst figure since April 1994.
Andrew Buxton, chairman of the CBI's economic affairs committee, said: "We are experiencing a period of static manufacturing activity, reflected by flat orders."
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