Prospects for the machine tool industry look bleak as orders slumped to a 22-year low and home market turnover crashed by more than a fifth in the three months to the end of May.
Figures for the period show total orders on hand 17.3% down on the previous quarter and 16% down on the year. The total orders-on-hand index with figures corrected to constant prices is at its lowest level since 1986.
Total machine tool turnover, seasonally adjusted, decreased by 12% between February and May. The only good news, a modest 3.3% rise in exports, was cancelled out by a huge 21.7% fall in the home market.
Engineering as a whole defied expectations with turnover increasing just over 2% in the home and export markets.
Total turnover was up 5.1% on the year. But here too, orders were down, by 3.6% on the quarter.
Manufacturing employment remained static, at the same level as two years ago. But one in three engineering firms report skills shortages, especially in the aerospace sector. Staff with practical skills and computer literacy are the most scarce.