UK factory output plunges at fastest pace on record, says CBI

motor manufacturer

The output of factories has fallen at its fastest pace on record during Britain’s three-month lockdown, according to the latest snapshot of activity from the CBI.

The employers organisation found no evidence in its monthly industrial trends survey that the recovery in high street and online spending had fed through into higher demand for manufactured goods.

Of the 360 firms that responded to the survey between late May and mid-June, 17% said they had produced more and 74% less in the latest three months than in the quarter ending in March, the month when the lockdown began.

The CBI said the negative balance – the gap between those reporting a rise and those reporting a fall – of 57 percentage points was the largest since its records began in 1975.

Most sub-sectors of manufacturing reported falling output, with the steepest declines in motor vehicles and transport equipment, mechanical engineering, and metal products.

The CBI said order books remained weak by historical standards despite a small recovery in June. Only 13% of firms said order books were above normal for the time of year against 71% reporting that they were below normal. The balance of -58 points compared to -62 points in May.

Export order books worsened in June to their lowest level on record, the CBI said. Only 2% of respondents said they were above normal against 81% who said they were below normal.

Anna Leach, the CBI’s deputy chief economist, said: “The UK manufacturing sector remained in a deep downturn in June due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Output volumes declined at a new record pace and export order books fell to an all-time low, reflecting the significant fall in demand in the UK and abroad. Firms are again hoping this will ease somewhat in the next three months.

“The government has already undertaken a huge amount of work to provide financial lifelines to businesses throughout this unprecedented period. With firms having been encouraged to restart operations, the government must continue to engage with the sector to understand their specific concerns and provide support as needed.”