Manufacturers are seeing increasingly strong growth as UK sales remain firm and exports rise, a survey of nearly 300 companies has found.

Strong conditions are spreading to all regions and sectors, according to the quarterly study by the EEF manufacturers’ organisation and business advisory firm BDO.

They said the positive outlook was being translated into the highest level of recruitment and investment intentions since at least 2000, though the sector faces growing skills shortages as it recovers.

Manufacturing output remains about 9 per cent below pre-crisis levels, but the EEF expects the sector to grow by 2.7 per cent this year, compared with 2.6 per cent for the economy as a whole.

Lee Hopley, EEF chief economist, said it was the most positive set of indicators for some time. Tom Lawton, head of manufacturing at BDO, said it had been “some time since all sectors have been moving in the right direction”.

Output and order balances were slightly above those for the final quarter of last year, with the most positive balances reported in the electronics, motor vehicles and electrical equipment sectors.

Expectations for output and orders in the coming quarter rose sharply. Export orders were up substantially despite sterling’s recent rise, probably because of the eurozone’s gradual recovery. All sectors have increased employment, notably motor vehicles and electronics.

Ms Hopley said: “It is now vital that government does all that it can to underpin support for companies.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.