Manufacturing PMI at near-record high in April but sector still beset by supply-chain disruptions

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​April saw a further acceleration in the rate of expansion of the UK manufacturing sector with the UK Manufacturing PMI at 60.9 in April (321-month high), production and new order growth strengthen and output prices rise at record pace.

Growth of output and new orders were both among the best seen over the past seven years, leading to a solid increase in employment.

The sector remained beset by supply-chain delays and input shortages, however, which contributed to increased purchasing costs and record selling price inflation. The seasonally adjusted IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 60.9 in April, up from 58.9 in March and above the earlier flash estimate of 60.7.

The latest reading is the highest since July 1994's record high (61.0). Manufacturing production increased for the eleventh successive month in April. Output growth was attributed to a loosening of lockdown restrictions, improved demand and rising backlogs of work.

Solid and accelerated expansions of output were seen across the consumer, intermediate and investment goods industries, with the consumer goods category the strongest performer overall. Underpinning the latest robust expansion of production was a similarly marked improvement in intakes of new business.

Total new orders rose for the third straight month, largely due to a further revival of domestic market conditions. Stronger client confidence, the re-opening of parts of the economy and improving global market conditions all contributed to sales growth.

Although new export business also rose in April, the growth rate was weak in comparison to that registered for total new UK Manufacturing PMI at 60.9 in April (321-month high) Production and new order growth strengthen Output prices rise at record pace Data were collected 12-26 April 2021. orders.

Companies reported improved new work intakes from several trading partners, including mainland Europe, the US, China and South-East Asia. Large-sized manufacturers saw a substantial expansion in new export order intakes, compared to only a marginal rise at small-sized firms.

The outlook for the UK manufacturing sector also remained positive at the start of the second quarter. Two-thirds (66%) of companies forecast that output will be higher in a year's time, compared to only 4% anticipating a contraction. The overall degree of confidence currently stands at its highest level in seven years.

Optimism reflected expectations for less disruption related to Covid-19 and Brexit, economic recovery, improved client confidence and planned new product launches. Average selling prices rose at the fastest pace since charges data were first collected in November 1999, as manufacturers passed on substantial cost increases to their clients.

Demand outpacing supply was also mentioned as a factor contributing to both selling price and input cost increases. Supply-chain delays and input shortages led to another near-record lengthening of vendor lead times. Manufacturers attempted to guard against further delivery delays and rising input costs by stepping up purchasing to one of the greatest extents in the survey history.

Manufacturing employment rose for the fourth successive month, with the rate of job creation staying close to March's IHS Markit / CIPS UK Manufacturing PMI.