By Marcus Leach

Following the release of today's (Thursday) manufacturing figures David Kern, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), has questioned the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.

With several sets of recent data showing strong signs of economic recovery the surprise 1% fall in manufacturing output in February suggests that the economy isn't in such rude health after all.

However, Mr Kern believes the ONS data is not entirely reliable, as it is so far off kilter with other trusted sources.

“These figures were much weaker than expected and indicated by virtually all business surveys including our own Quarterly Economic Survey," he said.

"Most expected that the manufacturing output figures to show a very small rise in February. Moreover, the ONS figures reported a better than expected increase in the wider industrial output figure, which in addition to manufacturing includes items such as mining and energy.

“Despite the disappointing manufacturing numbers, the total production figure still supports our assessment that there will be a small increase in GDP in the first quarter of the year. But we are aware that early estimates for the construction sector point to exceptionally large and almost implausible declines a few months ago, and this may push the economy into technical recession.

"This raises some serious questions about recent ONS estimates. We believe that the business surveys give a better picture of the underlying trends in the economy.

“Even allowing for this distortion it is undeniable that the UK economy faces difficult circumstances, and the economy has been virtually stagnant for some six quarters.

"While there is no need for excessive gloom, a period of sluggish growth is to be expected at a time when tough austerity measures are being implemented, and the Eurozone problems create challenges for our exporters. It is clear that the government and MPC must make every effort must be made to sustain growth and help businesses to drive recovery.”

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