British factories are increasingly planning to lay off workers, a warning sign for the economy as it tries to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, an industry survey showed on Friday.
Some 46% of manufacturers expect to make redundancies over the next six months, up sharply from 25% in May, according to sectoral group Make UK which is calling on the government take more measures immediately to support jobs.
“Conditions are still very tough for many companies with disruption likely to continue for some time,” said Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK.
“This has led some to reluctantly conclude that with demand unlikely to return for some time, if at all, they are moving to the painful choice of redundancy.”
The survey showed only a slight improvement in gauges of revenue and new orders.
Make UK said finance minister Rishi Sunak – who has already announced around 133 billion pounds’ worth of emergency measures, mostly to protect jobs – should consider cutting business rate taxes for manufacturers, a priority for 61% of the companies surveyed.
Sunak is due to announce an update to his plans for steering the economy through the coronavirus crisis on July 8.
In June, the Bank of England said Britain’s economy looked on course to have shrunk by around 20% in the first six months of 2020.
A separate survey of consumers published on Friday showed a small improvement in morale late last month, even though their confidence in the economy remained badly shaken.
The GfK Consumer Confidence Index rose to -27 from a reading of -30 published in mid-June, its highest level since lockdown began and helped by an improvement in the survey’s gauge of personal finances.
The Make UK survey of 274 manufacturers was conducted June 22-29. GfK surveyed 2,000 consumers for the European Commission from June 18 to June 26.