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Almost a third of the UK’s manufacturers are reducing staffing levels as the economic outlook dims, their latest survey shows.

Factory staff numbers fell for the 14th consecutive month in November, according to the CIPS/Markit purchasing managers’ index, a preliminary reading for factory surveys covering the UK manufacturing sector.

The fall of 30.2 points to 48.2 from November 2017 equates to the weakest labour market this decade. The majority of firms put job cuts on the back of weaker business conditions rather than cost-cutting.

The price paid by suppliers dropped by 2.1 points to a multi-year low of 44.8 in the first month of a likely production slowdown as a result of trade wars and faltering global demand.

Companies are already cutting prices to keep their wares in the UK market. Less than a third said they increased selling prices. However, the proportion of respondents planning to raise selling prices over the next three months fell to a post-recession low.

The slowdown in activity and orders has resulted in an exodus of foreign direct investment, revealed by the weakness of the FDI figure. The CIPS/Markit index of UK manufacturing non-durable manufacturing purchases slumped from an 18-month high of 50.2 in September to 47.1.

A separate survey on Tuesday revealed production was shrinking at all levels of the economy, intensifying the signs that activity in the UK will barely expand in the final quarter of 2018.