The Government's new industry supremo has been told to place manufacturing at the top of his agenda.
Jerry Blackett, policy director at Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, put Alan Johnson on the spot in the wake of terrible output figures and widespread relief that the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee had decided to keep interest rates on hold.
It comes as the West Midlands is hurting under the weight of the MG Rover crash and big job cuts at Peugeot, Jaguar, Marconi and IBM.
Mr Blackett said: "The stability that the standstill gives will be welcomed by all sections of industry and commerce.
"This region is suffering the brunt of the daily loss of manufacturing jobs and the announcement that this sector's output fell at its steepest rate in nearly three years in March underlines our concerns.
"We call on Alan Johnson in his new role to put manufacturing's problems at the top of his agenda."
Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Louise Beard added: "Manufacturers in this area have certainly been feeling pressure from a number of sources and Alan Johnson must urgently be looking to find a way to stop the decline."
Mr Johnson has succeeded Patricia Hewitt as head of the former DTI, now re-branded the Department of Productivity, Energy and Industry.
Mr Blackett added: "This change alone will not necessarily mean a solution for manufacturing.
"But improvements in productivity are the key to the 1.9 per cent. future and that will only be achieved by a commitment from the Government to improve the transport and planning systems, cut red tape and provide the measures that would ensure a flexible labour market coupled with low interest rates."
The Bank of England kept interest rates at 4.75 per cent for a ninth month in a row.
The move had been widely expected following further signs of a downturn in high street spending and evidence of continued weakness in manufacturing - National Statistics published figures showing manufacturing output fell by 1.6 per cent in March. It came despite concerns at a jump in inflation to
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research said the economy grew at its slowest quarterly pace in almost two years in April. The think-thank estimated gross domestic product rose 0.4 per cent in the three months to April - its lowest reading since June 2003.
Some commentators are now expecting the next rates movement will be down.
CBI chief economic adviser Ian McCafferty said: "March and April were tough months for business. Manufacturers were hit by the continued increase in the costs of oil and raw materials. Retailers were affected by a dip in consumer confidence in the high street."
The MPC delayed its monthly meeting because of the General Election but will not have been influenced by the campaign or the subsequent victory by Labour.
It will move on rates if it believes there are substantial risks to inflation missing its target of two per cent in two years' time.
Economists believe inflation will fall back when figures are published for April due to the timing of Easter, which came earlier this year and led a number of retailers and airlines to raise prices.
Steven Andrew, an economist at F&C Asset Management, forecast the rates hold, but warned against becoming optimistic about future cuts.
He said: "The fundamentals of the UK economy do not look anywhere near bad enough to warrant an interest rate cut - yet."