Experts claim the manufacturing sector may finally be emerging from its recession after recording its best performance in 14 months.

The purchasing managers’ index (PMI) – a key survey on the state of the sector – showed green shoots after a headline reading of 51.3 was revealed for May – with readings above 50 representing growth.

Manufacturing experts in the Midlands said the results were promising after the index had plunged to a low of 47.9 in February, inching up to 48.3 in March.

It is the latest encouraging sign for the UK economy after it grew 0.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2013, avoiding a triple-dip recession.

Improvements in headline gross domestic product (GDP) had been undercut by the fact that sectors including manufacturing have continued to struggle at well below their pre-recession peak, and acted as a drag on the headline figure.

But latest data has indicated that it may at last be entering a sustained period of recovery with a growth of both production and new orders accelerating.

While the domestic market was the main driver, export business also saw a modest increase, including higher demand from North America, East Asia, Russia, Germany and France.

Richard Halstead, regional director of manufacturing organisation EEF, predicted better times to come.

He said: “May’s rebound in manufacturing activity signals the strong likelihood of a positive second quarter for the sector. We also need to ensure that conditions are right for manufacturers to bring forward plans to increase business investment too.”

Rob Dobson, senior economist at survey compilers Markit, said: “The UK manufacturing sector had a spring in its step in May, as a brightening domestic market led to faster growth of output and new orders.”