Three quarters in: is 2014 panning out as expected?

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Back in January, we published our Executive Survey for 2014, our annual look at manufacturers’ expectations for the year ahead. We’re three quarters of the way through the year now, so let’s have a look at whether things are panning out as expected.

Output

What was expected?
Manufacturers expected moderate growth compared with 2013

What’s happened so far?
Data out last week showed that manufacturing had a strong start to the year, but - consistent with a range of other surveys, including our own - the PMI suggests that growth moderated in the third quarter of the year. Overall we now expect manufacturing to grow 3.3% this year, slightly faster than the economy as a whole.

Orders

What was expected?
The UK expected to be stronger than export markets

 

What’s happened so far?
Our quarterly manufacturing outlook survey has continued to show the UK outperforming export markets. In Q3 the UK market was providing more support for orders growth, in fact, the balance of manufacturers seeing export orders increase turned negative for the first time since early 2013.

Employment

What was expected?
Manufacturers expected a moderate increase in employment

What’s happened so far?
Jobs in manufacturing have now seen six consecutive quarters of growth. The last time this happened was in 1993-95. Manufacturing vacancies also rose 37% over the year. We expect manufacturing employment to grow 0.8% in 2014.

Key risks

What was expected?
Manufacturers cited a range of risks in 2014: rising input costs, particularly for energy; significant movements in exchange rates; and pressure on pay were particular areas of concern.

What’s happened so far?

  • Input costs: as we noted in “Executive Survey 2014 – Half time” one of the main concerns here was the rising price of energy, particularly relative to competitors. A large element of this was domestically inflicted taxes which were set to push up UK energy costs. Steps were taken in Budget 2014 to hold down green levies, which should go some way to mitigate future worries on costs. Recent producer prices data also shows broader input prices have been very soft.
  • Exchange rate movements: a key reason input price pressure has been limited is the strength of sterling. A strong sterling has a mixed impact on manufacturers, but it can be challenging for those operating in more commoditised sectors.
  • Pay pressure: although rates of pay increase have started to creep up in the manufacturing sector, as we reported in our latest Pay Bulletin, average rates of pay growth remain below pre-recession levels.

EEF will publish the next Executive Survey in January 2015.

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