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UK MANUFACTURING OUTPUT

UK Manufacturing Output, 3rd Quarter 2021:  The latest manufacturing output data from Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicates a marginal fall compared to August but, more importantly, output in the 3rd quarter (July to September) was -0.2% lower than in the 2nd period of the year but +4.5% higher than a year earlier.  Total manufacturing output was 97.8% of the pre-pandemic level which, on the quarterly measure, is taken to be the 4th quarter of 2019.

The first breakdown of the data is at the sub-sector level where the capital goods industries are of most interest to us.  Output for this group declined by -1.8% compared to the previous quarter but was still +2.8% higher than a year ago.  One consequence of this is that the latest quarterly output figure has dropped to 88.6% of the pre-pandemic level - this is the lowest of the sub-sectors and along with consumer durables, the only ones not to have got back above 100% on this measure;  in contrast, output of consumer non-durables stands at 106.2% of the pre-pandemic level.

At this point it is important to note that the output data from the ONS is based on data for companies classified to the specific industries from which the groupings are then built up.  The value data collected is also seasonally adjusted although given the disruptions to the usual patterns in 2020 (the latest year usually has the greatest impact on seasonal adjustment) this may also be creating some distortions.

The 4 key industries that we track on a regular basis fall neatly into two groups;  output of the machinery industry (what used to be known as mechanical engineering) fell by -2.1% quarter-on-quarter but was +17.3% higher than in the 3rd quarter of 2020, while for the metal products industry the trends were -2.6% and +4.4% respectively.  The stronger leap on last year for the machinery industry is a reflection of a larger reduction at the height of the pandemic which meant that the recovery took a few months longer than for the metal products industry.

In contrast, output of the automotive industry as measured by the seasonally adjusted output data (see article below for the units data from SMMT) was only -0.3% lower than in the previous quarter but, as a result of the fall in output recorded in Q2 in the face of well publicised supply chain problems, the Q3 output level was -9.6% lower than in Q3-2020.  We see similar trends for the aerospace industry where output was down by -0.9% on the previous quarter and still -7.2% lower than a year earlier.  Where the pattern differs is that while the automotive industry staged a good recovery until component shortages restricted activity, apart from a small post-shutdown bounce, output of the aerospace industry has been broadly flat.

As a result, while output of the automotive industry in Q3-21 stands at 75.8% of the pre-pandemic level, aerospace has only got back to 64.5%.  The equivalent figures for the machinery and metal products industries are 98.1% and 93.8% respectively.  Among the broader engineering industries, the highest ratio of current output to the pre-pandemic level is for electrical equipment which stands at 99.9%.  However, it is worth noting that on a monthly basis, where the pre-pandemic level is February 2020, output of the machinery industry in September was 105.0% of the pre-pandemic level although this is slightly mis-leading as this industry was on a downward trend before the impact of Coronavirus, so the monthly level is lower than the quarterly one for the end of 2019.

You can download the ONS Statistical Bulletin from their web-site at https://www.ons.gov.uk/releasecalendar (11 November) or request it from MTA;  we also have an analysis of the key industries which is available to members - please contact Geoff Noon (gnoon@mta.org.uk) if you would like these charts.

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UK Automotive Output, 3rd Quarter 2021:  The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) publishes unit number figures for the output of cars, commercial vehicles and engines on a monthly basis, although this piece will focus on the quarterly totals.  A total of 157,853 cars were manufactured in the 3rd quarter of 2021 - this is -18% lower than the previous quarter and -37% down on the same figure for a year earlier.

This data (unlike that from the ONS) is not seasonally adjusted so there is an element in the negative quarter-on-quarter trend of the maintenance shutdowns reducing production over the summer;  at this time last year, these did not occur as the industry was working hard to recover from the near total stoppage of car manufacturing in April and May 2020 as the pandemic struck.  There is also the impact of the closure of the Honda factory in July.

However, the main driver of this downturn is the shortage of electronic components.  A survey by SMMT shows that more than one-third of companies in the automotive supply chain had to reduce operating hours because of this problem.  The same report also highlighted that more than half of the respondents don’t expect the existing supply constraints to improve until the 3rd quarter of 2022.

In more positive news, SMMT have also revealed that electric vehicles (battery, plug-in and mild hybrid) now account for almost one-third (32.8%) of cars made in the UK in September.

We see similar trends in the production of engines where the Q3-21 total was 347,247;  this represents a fall of -14% compared to the previous quarter and is -30% lower than in the same period of 2020.  Again, the main driver of this is the global shortage of semi-conductors with second round effects coming from the lower level of output of cars into which the engines are fitted.

You can get more on the SMMT announcements from their web-site at https://www.smmt.co.uk/category/news/manufacturing/ or we can send you our summary charts and analysis of the SMMT data – contact Geoff Noon at MTA (gnoon@mta.org.uk) for this analysis