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In March, the manufacturing and services sectors experienced growth in supply and demand, with exports improving and sustained market optimism. This acceleration in growth, along with the positive Caixin manufacturing PMI, led to the composite PMI rising to 52.7 last month from 52.5 in February. This was the highest reading since May 2023.

Despite this overall positive outlook for new business expansion and business confidence, employment levels continued to contract in both sectors. Respondents attributed this decline in payroll numbers to resignations among staff and redundancies made to improve productivity. However, there was no significant increase in recruitment levels due to improving underlying demand and efforts to boost new orders.

The subindex of future activity increased for the first time in three months, further supporting this optimism. Despite better sales and business confidence, there was no significant increase in recruitment levels as employment levels shrank for a second consecutive month in March. The rate of job shedding did ease from February, but this trend is expected to continue as companies focus on improving efficiency rather than expanding their workforce.

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