British manufacturing activity continued to grow in December, though at a slower pace than the previous month, according to statistics released Thursday. Economists said that pointed to continued strong growth of the British economy. The Markit Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for December recorded 57.3, above the 50 mark that signals growth, while November's figure was a three-year high of 58.1. James Knightley, chief economist with ING Bank in London, said the December PMI figure was "slightly disappointing" but was "consistent with very strong growth rates." Despite a dip in new orders to 60.4 from a 19-year-high of 63.9 in November, the December figures "still suggests that the economy will expand robustly in early 2014," said Knightley. Knightley expected Britain's economy to grow close to 3 percent this year. He said he believed there would not be a bank rate rise until early 2015. Blerina Uruci, an economist with Barclays Economics Research, said that the PMI figures "remained some way above its long-term average of 51.3 and indicating significantly above average growth." She said that the figures should be approached with some caution because in recent months they had been strong and had tracked differently than GDP growth figures in recent months. Job numbers rose for the eighth consecutive month, which with a rise in output indicated that productivity is also on the increase. The strong figures point to a continuation of the robust economic recovery in 2013.