Hopes for putting Britain's factories at the centre of the economic recovery suffered another setback as official figures showed the manufacturing sector fell for the second month in a row in May.
A 0.6% worse-than-expected decline reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), shows output was dragged down by a fall in production of basic metals and metal products.
Economists had expected a fall of 0.2%, with this slide coming on top of a 0.4% decline in April.
But the wider industrial production sector lifted by a better-than-expected 0.4% in May, boosted by a rise in output in mining and quarrying.
Experts had expected a rise of just 0.1%, which builds on a rise of 0.4% the previous month.
However, the slump in manufacturing dents hopes of a re-balancing of the recovery, which is being led by consumer spending and the dominant services sector.
The figures come ahead of Chancellor George Osborne's summer Budget today, where he is set to present the first fully Conservative Budget since November 1996.