Manufacturing jobs rise as factories gather steam

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The manufacturing sector gathered momentum in February, boosting hopes that the wider economy will pick up the pace following a disappointing final quarter of 2014.

The Markit/Cips purchasing managers’ index for the industrial sector rose to a seven-month high of 54.1, up from 53.1 in January.

The series has now spent two years above the critical 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction, but weakening readings in the final months of last year had led to worries that Britain’s factories were running out of steam.

Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global insight, said: “The evidence is increasingly pointing to the manufacturing sector regaining momentum early on in 2015 after faltering in the latter months of 2014. This is a pretty decent survey, which follows on from an improved CBI industrial trends survey.”

The CBI this week forecast faster growth in the private sector this year as cheaper energy and improved consumer confidence boost firms.

However, those who are exposed to the oil and gas sector continue to suffer, with the latest quarterly review from Scottish Engineering showing lower output and job reductions among its members.

Markit said its February data signalled an increase in UK manufacturing employment for the 22nd successive month.

Andy Hall, head of corporate banking for Barclays in Central Scotland, said firms have been reporting stronger performance and significant investment in machinery, premises and new product development.

But he added: “However, what our clients are highlighting as a hindrance to further growth is access to labour, which continues to be a growing challenge for many of them.”

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