UK manufacturers cut jobs at fastest rate since 2012: PMI

The British manufacturing sector was hard hit due to concerns about disruption to supply chains after the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. (AFP)
Updated 02 December 2019

UK manufacturers cut jobs at fastest rate since 2012: PMI

  • Britain’s economy has slowed since the referendum decision in June 2016 to leave the European Union
  • Manufacturing was especially hard hit due to concerns about disruption to supply chains

LONDON: British manufacturers cut jobs last month at the fastest rate since 2012, a survey showed on Monday, as pressures from Brexit and a global trade slowdown caused the sector’s longest decline since the financial crisis.
The IHS Markit/CIPS manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) sank to 48.9 in November from 49.6 in October, a slightly smaller decline than an initial flash estimate of 48.3.
But the PMI stuck below the 50 level that divides growth from contraction for a seventh consecutive month, the longest such run since 2009, as the country headed for an early election on Dec. 12 intended to end a parliamentary logjam over Brexit.
“November saw UK manufacturers squeezed between a rock and hard place, as the uncertainty created by a further delay to Brexit was accompanied by growing paralysis ahead of the forthcoming general election,” IHS Markit economist Rob Dobson said.
Britain’s economy has slowed since the referendum decision in June 2016 to leave the European Union, with manufacturing especially hard hit due to concerns about disruption to supply chains, on top of pressures from the US-China trade war.
Britain faced the risk of leaving the EU without a transition deal on Oct. 31, prompting many manufacturers to build up emergency stocks of raw materials, before a last-minute delay until Jan. 31.
In November, factories reduced stocks at the fastest rate since June 2018, weighing on overall demand, the PMI showed.
The PMI’s employment component sank to 46.8 from 47.1, representing the biggest loss of jobs since 2012, though less of a fall than in the flash estimate.
Although the unemployment rate is its lowest since 1975, official figures have shown that British employers in the third quarter cut jobs by the most for any quarter in the past four years. Monday’s data suggest this risks continuing.
Manufacturing makes up around 10 percent of Britain’s economy. In the third quarter output in the sector fell by 1.4 percent from a year earlier, while growth in the economy as a whole slowed to 1.0 percent, its weakest since 2010.
Earlier on Monday, the Confederation of British Industry forecast economic growth of 1.2 percent for 2020 and 1.8 percent in 2021, assuming Britain leaves the EU with a Brexit transition deal on Jan. 31 and then strikes a deal to preserve tariff-free trade.
Trade association Make UK cut its forecast for manufacturing growth to 0.1 percent for 2019 and 0.3 percent for 2020, down from a previous forecast of 0.6 percent.


UK economy faces long climb back to health

Updated 21 min 34 sec ago

UK economy faces long climb back to health

  • Wave of job losses feared after data shows record 20 percent economic hit

LONDON: Britain’s economy shrank by a record 20.4 percent in the second quarter when the coronavirus lockdown was tightest, the most severe contraction reported by any major economy so far, with a wave of job losses set to hit later in 2020.

The scale of the economic hit may also revive questions about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic, with Britain suffering the highest death toll in Europe. More than 50,000 UK deaths have been linked to the disease.

“Today’s figures confirm that hard times are here,” Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said. “Hundreds of thousands of people have already lost their jobs, and sadly in the coming months many more will.”

The data confirmed that the world’s sixth-biggest economy had entered a recession, with the low point coming in April when output was more than 25 percent below its pre-pandemic level.

Growth restarted in May and quickened in June, when the economy expanded by a monthly 8.7 percent — a record single-month increase and stronger than forecasts by economists in a Reuters poll.

However, some analysts said the bounceback was unlikely to be sustained.

Last week the Bank of England (BoE) forecast it would take until the final quarter of 2021 for the economy to regain its previous size, and warned unemployment was likely to rise sharply.

Any decision to pump more stimulus into the economy will hinge on the pace of growth in the coming months, and whether the worst-hit sectors such as face-to-face retail and business travel ever fully recover.

The second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) slump exceeded the 12.1 percent drop in the euro zone and the 9.5 percent fall in the United States.

Some economists said the sharper decline partly reflected the timing of Britain’s lockdown — which fell more in the second quarter — and its dependence on domestic consumer spending.

Suren Thiru, an economist with the British Chambers of Commerce, said the recent pickup probably only reflected the release of pent-up demand rather than a sustained revival.

“The prospect of a swift ‘V-shaped’ recovery remains remote,” he said.

Britain’s unemployment rate is expected to jump when the government ends its huge job subsidy program in October.

Sunak said he saw “promising signs” in GDP data for June and reiterated his opposition to extending the program. In July he cut sales tax for the hospitality sector and in August is subsidising restaurants to draw in diners.

Hotels and restaurants did just one fifth of their normal business in June, when the lockdown was still largely in force.

British GDP shrank by 2.2 percent in the first quarter of the year, reflecting the lockdown that started on March 24.