Coronavirus: Manufacturing pessimism grows over recovery, survey finds

More than a third of manufacturers believe it will take more than a year to return to normal trading as a result of the pandemic – double the number of two weeks ago, an industry survey has found.

With sales and orders continuing to fall with the coronavirus crisis, nearly a fifth of companies are also planning to increase the number of staff on furlough over the next fortnight, according to a trade body.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak

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The latest COVID-19 manufacturing monitor published by Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, revealed 36% of firms believe it will take more than a year to recover, compared to 17% in the last survey two weeks ago.

More than three-quarters (78.3%) have seen a decline in sales while more than four-fifths (82.5%) have seen orders fall.

The importance of the government’s job retention scheme, extended until October this week, is also underlined with around a fifth of companies (21.9%) having furloughed up to half their staff already.

Nearly the same proportion are planning to extend it to more workers in the next two weeks.

More than a third of companies (34.4%) said they will only take staff off furlough when they see an increase in orders.

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Make UK chief executive Stephen Phipson said: “If we thought we were in for a long haul before now, then this puts into stark context the reality for many companies over the next year.

“It’s clear that it is going to be a long road back to anything like normal trading conditions and, despite the lockdown beginning to be lifted, there will be a significant impact on companies and jobs for some time to come.”

He added: “Government has been very supportive to date with the various schemes to help companies and protect jobs ahead of what is clearly going to be a major downturn. If we are now looking even further into the horizon to fully recover, there might need to be everything on the table to ensure the economy is sustained through this period.”

The survey of 197 companies was carried out between 4 and 11 May.

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