UK manufacturers are evenly divided between those expecting orders to grow and those believing orders will shrink.
But the CBI’s latest Regional Trends survey shows that optimists and pessimists are not evenly distributed across the country. The areas which foresee a rise in orders are Northern Ireland, Scotland, the north east, the south of England and Wales. These form a ring around the more pessimistic Midlands, Yorkshire and north west.
Northern Ireland is the only UK region where manufacturers expect to take on more staff, the survey shows, although the 1% balance is too small to be significant.
The regions which expect to lose most jobs are the West Midlands, Yorkshire, the north east and the north west.
Manufacturing output rose by 0.2% in March, according to official figures. But the total for the first quarter of 1999 was down 0.3%, the third successive quarterly fall.
Engineering and allied industries saw a 1.3% increase in output in the first quarter, partly due to an improvement in sales of office equipment and mobile phones.
The chemicals and metals sectors both saw an increase in output during March, even though there was a drop in quarterly totals.