The UK's regional purchasing managers' index saw all nine English regions grow in September, and at a faster rate than August's 14 month low.
London, which shrunk slightly in August, continued its recovery last month.
Researched by Markit,the PMI is a single figure indicator of industry health which considers output, employment, demand, work-in-hand and input and output prices.
The North West increased its output at the fastest rate with a PMI of 54.6 where 50 indicates no change. The North East and Yorkshire and Humber were close behind on 54.5 and 54.4 respectively and all of the other regions were within two index points, making the closest group of readings since the series began in 1997.
The North East saw the fastest expansion in new work coming in.
Employment was up in six out of the nine regions in September and was up collectively, although the increases were generally very modest. The North East hit a three month high for employment growth, registering 52.7 from 51.6 the month before. The East Midlands, North West and the West Midlands were those that cut their headcount.
Factory gate prices were up across all nine English regions but the rate of growth slowed. Coupled with anecdotal evidence of weak pricing power and intense competition for new work, this suggests manufacturers are struggling to pass on cost increases meaning margins will fall.
The survey is sponsored by the Regional Development Agencies. Nigel Jump, Chief Economist for the South West RDA, said: “It looks as though there was some bounce back in business activity in most regions in September. However, we would want to see this extended for several months before concluding that August marked the low point in business confidence for 2010. This autumn, it will be interesting to see whether activity is temporarily boosted ahead of the new year tax increases or whether a sustainable recovery can get underway.”