Image: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Image: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Activity in the UK's manufacturing sector rebounded slightly in May, returning to growth after a contraction in April, according to a closely watched survey.

The Markit/CIPS purchasing managers' index (PMI) rose to 50.1, up from 49.4 in April', which was a three-year low. Any figure above 50 indicates growth in the sector.

Rob Dobson, senior economist at survey compilers Markit, said: "The manufacturing sector looks likely to act as an increased drag on the economy in the second quarter.

"There are also signs that increased client uncertainty resulting from slower growth and the forthcoming EU referendum are weighing on investment spending and business decision-making in general."

The survey also found that a third of manufacturers in the UK believe uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the EU referendum has had a negative impact on their business in the last few years, with 8% describing the effect as "strongly detrimental".

Growth in the manufacturing sector has been so sluggish over the past two years that it has barely contributed to overall economic growth, if at all. The UK's economy grew by 0.4% in the first quarter of the year, down from growth of 0.6% in the final quarter of 2015. But that increase was driven in the most part by the dominant services sector.