The manufacturing industry has been hit hard by the economic downturn, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

New figures suggest that manufacturers are planning to recruit employees at a faster rate than at any point in the past 10 years.

The UK’s largest trading partner, the Eurozone, has seen a burst of activity with improved economic conditions leading to higher demand for orders in the first quarter of 2014.

Manufacturing trade body EEF and accountancy firm BDO revealed the good news after conducting a survey into the intentions of UK employers.

It found that almost a third (31%) of companies plan to hire more staff in the next three months – the highest level in over a decade. The survey suggests that car and electrical manufacturers had the strongest hiring intentions.

Employers also plan to bolster their businesses, with 34% intending to increase investment in the next three months – also a record high.

“Manufacturers are clearly feeling more confident as their order books fill up and exports are strong,” said EEF’s chief economist, Lee Hopley.

“It is now vital that government does all that it can to underpin support for companies, giving manufacturers the confidence to fulfil their investment and recruitment plans.”

In the first few months of 2014, factories reported a strong increase in export orders, suggesting that the UK is finally starting to reap the rewards of the improved economic conditions in the Eurozone.

While Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed that exports fell to a new low in January, the EEF and BDO survey suggests that more positive results may soon be mirrored in the official data.

“The profile of the economy will remain a concern until we see investment and exports contributing a greater share of growth,” Ms Hopley added.

Despite the ONS figures for exports being down, they did reveal that employment has hit 30.2 million, up by 459,000 in the year. These figures, combined with the latest findings from the survey, suggest that employers could be in for a busy three months.

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