Record numbers of English small manufacturers are looking to take on staff as recruitment confidence hits a three-year high, according to one of the UK's biggest manufacturing surveys.
The latest Manufacturing Advisory Service’s (MAS) Barometer shows more than 54% of firms questioned are looking to create new jobs, an increase of 14% on the same period last year.
Questioning over 800 SMEs across England with turnovers in excess of £3bn, the latest barometer also identifies firms being ready to take advantage of new opportunities.
These includes expanding of businesses and the reshoring of supply chains in the automotive, aerospace and nuclear sectors.
Vacancies in manufacturing have also risen by 23% year-on-year, following on from The Office of National Statistics announcing earlier this month that UK unemployment was at a five-year low.
This is reinforced by industry sales increases, with 61% of firms reporting an increase on the previous six months, while 73% expect to win more work between now and October.
Responses also reveal a record 59% stating they plan to invest in new plant and machinery, while 52% said they would spend on developing new technologies.
Steven Barr, head of MAS, said the figures are a clear signal that UK manufacturers believe the upturn in fortunes is sustainable.
“Three record figures for recruitment and investment in machinery and technology suggest many small manufacturers are planning for the long-term and, encouragingly, they are taking action now to manage future expansion.”
Business minister Michael Fallon said the results are a sign of the government’s commitment to supporting the country’s industry, which it remains focused on building.
“Through our industrial strategy and economic plan, the Government will continue to work closely with this vital sector to ensure that confidence stays high, creating more highly-skilled jobs and a stronger economy for everyone,” he said.
The report warned however that rising energy prices could prove problematic for manufacturers, with three quarters of SME manufacturers reporting an increase in energy costs over the last year.
Some 59% of those SMEs were hit with rises of 6% or more, while energy use outside of measuring heating and lighting remains poorly monitored.
Mr Barr believes the issue has often be overlooked in contrast to focusing on other areas such as growth.
“Managing energy costs is a major concern for our manufacturers, but sometimes this gets overlooked when they are focused on growth and the day-to-day challenge of meeting ever-changing customer requirements,” he said.