UK industrial output rises at fastest annual pace since 2011

Welder Image copyright PA
Image caption The manufacturing sector remains 8.2% smaller than it was in early 2008

UK industrial output grew at its fastest annual pace for three years in April, official figures have shown.

Output rose by 3% in April from a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, the fastest annual rate since January 2011.

The narrower measure of manufacturing output rose 4.4% year-on-year, the fastest pace since February 2011.

Meanwhile, economists at research group NIESR estimate that UK gross domestic product is now above pre-crisis levels.

'Robust momentum'

The ONS said that both industrial output and manufacturing output increased by 0.4% during April itself.

Manufacturing output was boosted by transport equipment, electronic products, and rubber and plastics.

However, the levels of industrial output and manufacturing output were respectively 11.3% and 7.0% below the pre-downturn GDP peak of the first quarter of 2008, the ONS said.

"Robust momentum in manufacturing shows no sign of easing, with activity across the sector broadening out impressively over the past year," said Neil Prothero, deputy chief economist at manufacturers' body EEF.

"Production is now at its highest level in five years, highlighting industry's prominent role in the economic upturn, despite the subdued trend in external trade."

IHS Global Insight's chief UK and European economist, Howard Archer, said that manufacturing output had expanded month-on-month for five successive months, and that "this fuels hopes that the sector can make a sustained contribution to balanced UK growth".

In addition, a "robust gain in industrial production in April indicates that it started off the second quarter on the front foot and is well placed to make a healthy contribution to GDP growth", he said.

Pre-crisis levels

Separately, data published on Tuesday from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research suggests that UK GDP grew by 0.9% in the three months ending in May, after growth of 1.1% in the three months to April.

On this estimate, the level of GDP has surpassed its pre-recession peak, and is approximately 0.2% above where it was in January 2008.

NIESR forecasts GDP growth of 2.9% for this year and 2.4% in 2015, which is unchanged from its projection last month.

Last week, the IMF warned the UK government that accelerating house prices and low productivity posed the greatest threat to the UK's economic recovery, but noted that there was evidence that the economy was now rebalancing towards an "investment-led recovery".

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