Growth in Britain’s manufacturing sector jumped to a new three-year high in April after a 4.4% surge in output on the same period in 2013.
The performance was the strongest year-on-year showing since February 2011, adding to hopes that overall GDP accelerated in the second quarter.
The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed an improvement in output of 0.4% compared with a month earlier.
It was the fifth period of month-on-month growth in a row -– the longest run of continuous expansion since June 2010. Main contributors included transport equipment as well as computer, electronic and optical products. Samuel Tombs of consultancy Capital Economics said the figures “add to the growing body of evidence suggesting the economic recovery might have gathered more pace in the second quarter”.
The figures provide further evidence that the strength of the pound has not had as detrimental an effect on exporters as previously thought. Markit chief economist Chris Williamson said: “Britain’s factories are booming, enjoying their best spell of growth for four years.
“The data not only indicate that the recovery has strong momentum, but also that the economy is rebalancing, though there is still a long way to go before manufacturing even regains its pre-recession size.”
Manufacturing remained 7.6% below its pre-downturn peak at the end of the first quarter of 2014.
David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The Government must keep boosting efforts to support UK exporters and improve access to finance for growing firms.”
A Treasury spokesman said: “Manufacturing grew at its fastest annual rate in three years in April. This provides further evidence that the Government’s long-term economic plan is working, laying the foundations of a broad-based recovery.”
Overall industrial production - which also includes sub-sectors such as mining and quarrying, electricity and gas output, and water supply - increased by 0.4% month-on-month in April as well. It grew by 3% year-on-year.
GDP grew by 0.8% in the first quarter, its fifth successive period of growth, as the economy recovers from the recession.