By Jonathan Davies

Growth in the UK's manufacturing sector fell to its slowest pace in seven-months in April, according to a closely watched survey.

The Markit/CIPS purchasing managers' index (PMI) fell from 54 in March to 51.9 in April. Any figure above 50 indicates growth.

Even with April's fall, it means the manufacturing sector has been growing for 25 consecutive months, Markit said.

The survey also showed that employment in the sector grew for a 24th consecutive month following "modest growth" in consumer and investment goods sectors.

Rob Dobson, senior economist Markit, said: “Coming on the back of weaker-than-expected GDP numbers on Tuesday and only six days before the General Election, today’s UK PMI delivered less than positive news on the health of the manufacturing sector. Rates of expansion in production and order books both slowed sharply in April, meaning manufacturing is again unlikely to provide much of a boost to broader economic growth. This keeps the emphasis for maintaining the recovery highly reliant on the service sector."

Jeremy Cook, chief economist at the international payments company, World First, said: “The strong pound is starting to hurt the competitiveness of the UK’s manufacturing industry, especially within the Eurozone.

“While the domestic market is still showing strength, the 12% gain in GBP against the European single currency is starting to hurt our manufacturers and exporters."