Belfast Telegraph

Manufacturing sector’s ‘worst year on record’

By Graeme Evans

An end-of-year surge in activity failed to prevent the UK manufacturing sector from recording its worst year since records began in 1948.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said manufacturing output slid 10.5% in 2009, despite a month-on-month rise of 0.9% in December. This followed a gain of 0.2% in November and fuelled expectations that the beleaguered sector is showing signs of life after a dismal 2008 and 2009. Northern Ireland’s manufacturing sector has been among the hardest hit segments of the economy, with thousands of jobs lost since the start of the recession. Almost 500 manufacturing jobs were lost last month when employees of Hughes Christensen, a former unit of Nortel and Arntz Belting were put on notice their plants were likely to close. While the overall UK figures for 2009 were better than expected, analysts said they are unlikely to alter the recent GDP estimate of 0.1% in the fourth quarter.

Jonathan Loynes, of Capital Economics, said: “The numbers provide hope that the recovery in the manufacturing sector is picking up again after stalling a bit over the previous few months.” He said the sector is starting to feel the benefits of the drop in the pound and a pick-up in overseas activity.

But Mr Loynes added: “With industry accounting for only 17% of GDP, even a rapid recovery won't offset the likely weakness of the household and public sectors.”

German manufacturer Bosch yesterday confirmed it is pressing ahead with plans to close a car parts factory in Britain that employs 900 people.

Belfast Telegraph