By Jonathan Davies

Activity in the UK's manufacturing industry rose to an eight-month high in March, according to a closely watched survey.

The Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers' Index hit 54.4, up from 54 in February. Any figure above 50 indicates growth.

March's score means that UK manufacturing activity has now been growing for 24 consecutive months.

The ongoing expansions in production and new orders both gathered pace, leading to a further rise in workforce numbers.

Rob Dobson, Senior Economist at Markit, said: “Scratching beneath the surface of the numbers we can see that the drivers of growth are heavily skewed towards domestic consumers, as consumer goods producers reported by far the steepest expansions of both production and new orders.

"However, there was also some reassure provided by accelerated growth in both the intermediate and capital goods sectors, suggesting that both business-to-business and investment spending are providing some support and balance to the economy. A solid pick-up in new export orders will also benefit growth going forward.”

A similar survey also revealed the manufacturing activity in the eurozone reached a 10-month high in March.