THE UKs manufacturing sector has grown at its fastest pace for three years as North-East firms enjoy record exports, a report has said.

The industry expanded by 3.8 per cent compared to February last year, fuelling hopes of a broad-based economic recovery.

The increase means it is the sixth consecutive month of year-on-year growth and the fastest since February 2011.

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The results come after The North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) said companies in the region are taking on more workers and increasing investment, with orders, sales and exports at unprecendented levels.

A report from the Office for National Statistics said the UKs manufacturing output lifted one per cent from January to February, driven by automotive, pharmaceuticals, food and tobacco production.

It added industrial output, which includes power generation and North Sea oil production, climbed 0.9 per cent, strengthening after a weak January when bad weather hampered North Sea oil and gas work.

It said: "Manufacturing output increased by 3.8 per cent between February 2013 and February 2014, with the largest upward contributions coming from rubber and plastic products and non-metallic mineral products.

"The majority came from the rubber and plastic products industries, which increased by 10.4 per cent, with evidence suggesting strong sales and exports were factors to the growth.

"The second largest contributor to the increase in manufacturing transport equipment, which increased by 5.8 per cent.

"The majority was attributed to the motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers industry, which increased by 7.3 per cent compared to a year ago.

"However, coke and refined petroleum products decreased by 13.1 per cent, with electrical equipment manufacturing falling by three per cent."

The report comes just days after the NECCs quarterly economic survey said the last quarter of 2013 returned the best set of results since 2003, with confidence levels extremely high.

Mark Stephenson, NECC policy and research manager, added: "To achieve the best ever figures for export sales and orders for manufacturing companies is a real cause for celebration.

"We saw that last year provided the foundations for economic growth and the last two quarters prove that business remains at the forefront of the recovery."