But it’s worth noting that, while the manufacturing industry grew by 0.9% in the fourth quarter, it was far from the “fastest” segment, as Osborne claims. A treasury spokesperson explains that the chancellor’s claim is correct when comparing the quarterly growth rates for manufacturing, agriculture, construction and services. While technically true, that requires a rather selective reading of the numbers; the largest subcomponent of the service sector is the “business services and finance” industry, which is three times the size of the manufacturing industry and grew by 1.2% in the fourth quarter.

That suggests that, although manufacturing has been closing the growth gap with business services in recent quarters, a full-blown manufacturing renaissance is far off; the UK’s service sector is more than five times larger than the production sector. Rebalancing the British economy was never going to be quick, but the latest data show that the economy’s fortunes continue to rely much more on financiers in Canary Wharf than widget-makers in Coventry, whatever the politicians might say.

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