Manufacturing sector recovery continues but future is unpredictable

Manufacturing sector recovery continues but future is unpredictable

VIENNA, 28 March 2022 - The most recent data on global manufacturing production, covering the fourth quarter of 2021, confirm the recovery of the world economy and its manufacturing sector, albeit with seasonal, regional and sectoral differences. High technology industries had a better production performance and, therefore, recovered faster. It is clear from the data that the economic situation keeps improving as many countries gradually phase out economic and social restrictions, although new trends in the pandemic may still jeopardize the fragile recovery, as shown by recent events in South-East Asia.

The latest UNIDO World Manufacturing Report, published by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), includes the most recent official data on global manufacturing production. The Quarterly Report points to a recovery with a year-over-year growth of 3.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2021, but also shows a different pace of recovery across regions and sectors. China, for example, quickly bounced back and has exceeded its pre-pandemic production level since the third quarter of 2020. However, in the current quarter this country experienced its lowest annual growth rate (3.1 per cent) since 2006, excluding the first two quarters in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. Production in developing and emerging industrial economies has recorded a notable increase by 4.3 per cent, albeit with a greater volatility over time. Industrialized economies, on the other hand, have exceeded their pre-pandemic production level since the first quarter of 2021 and are now facing a stable year-over-year growth of 3.2 per cent.

Figure 1. Index of industrial production (Q4 2019 = 100)

Graph1

Source: UNIDO Statistics based on data from official national sources.

The UNIDO report also reveals varying trends across industrial sectors. Currently, medium-high- and high- (4.7 per cent), as well as low-technology industries (3.8 per cent), achieved a better production performance than industries using medium-low technology (1.4 per cent), such as manufacturing of mineral products or basic metals. Many of the higher-technology industries have already reached and exceeded their pre-pandemic production levels. However, one exception to this is the manufacturing of motor vehicles. The sector has not been able to return to production levels prior to the pandemic and even faced a year-over-year output reduction of 9.1 per cent this quarter due to supply chain difficulties.

Figure 2. Quarterly growth of manufacturing industries by technological intensity, percentage change compared to the same quarter of the previous year

Graph2

Source: UNIDO Statistics based on data from official national sources.

With the release of the fourth quarter data, it is now possible to complete the picture for2021 and the impacts of the global outbreak of COVID-19 over the last two years. The complete annual data confirms a major decrease in manufacturing production registered in 2020, as well as an equally impressive recovery in 2021. Global manufacturing production increased by 9.4 per cent in 2021, after the pandemic-related drop of 4.2 per cent in 2020.

Figure 3. Annual growth of world manufacturing output compared to the previous year

Graph3

Source: UNIDO Statistics based on data from official national sources.

The full report is available here. It presents the most recent trends of global manufacturing at country, regional and industry level.

All data and analysis are based on seasonally adjusted data. Data can be downloaded through the UNIDO data portal or consulted in official UNIDO publications. For more information, please contact UNIDO Statistics.

Cover image by: ILO Asia-Pacific