Private sector reaches highest growth since 2013 – study

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The UK’s private sector is growing at its fastest rate since 2013, according to a measure that is closely watched by economists.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose from 56.4 in March to 60 in the first weeks of April, data shows.

The IHS Markit/CIPS Flash UK Composite PMI provides one of the first measures of an opening economy, as the country emerges from the winter lockdown periods.

Any score above 50 means that the sector is growing.

It was the highest reading in 89 months, experts said, and driven in no small part by the service sector, which started to open again.

It is also good news for staff and those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic as companies are finally hiring again. The data shows the steepest rate of job creation since August 2017.

However, customers are meanwhile facing one of the fastest price rises for the past 3.5 years as businesses have to pay for rising fuel bills, staff wages, commodity prices and freight surcharges.

“Companies are reporting a surge in demand for both goods and services as the economy opens up from lockdowns and the encouraging vaccine roll-out adds to a brighter outlook,” said Chris Williamson at IHS Markit, which helps compile the survey.

“In more than 23 years of PMI history, we have only seen one spell of faster growth than this, recorded between August and November 2013.”

CIPS group director Duncan Brock added: “Whilst business volumes expanded, supply chain performance remained under par and 57% of UK manufacturers reported longer waiting times.

“Suppliers gave both Brexit and Covid-related reasons for slower response times, but as 67% of respondents said they were paying more for manufacturing inputs continuing inflationary pressure may dampen ongoing recovery in the sector.”

The flash figures are initial readings for April and fuller data which includes the whole month will be released in May.

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