LONDON (AP) -- U.K. manufacturing output in March was 3.3 percent higher than a year ago and 2.3 percent better than the previous month, government statisticians said Tuesday, giving hope that the economic recovery was accelerating.

A downbeat report on retail sales, however, added a cautionary note.

Total output of production industries -- which includes manufacturing -- was 2 percent better than a year ago.

Britain\'s motor vehicle manufacturers led the gain with a 52.3 increase compared to a year earlier.

A drop of 3.8 percent in oil and gas extraction and a 14 percent fall in coal production weighed on the overall production index.

"This is a really spectacular performance by the manufacturing sector, which is a real shot in the arm for the economy," said Howard Archer, economist at IHS Global Insight.

Separately, however, the British Retail Consortium said retail sales fell 2.3 percent in April compared to a year ago, partly due to Easter falling earlier this year. The figure does not account for new store openings.

Gross sales were down 0.2 percent compared to last year, compared with a 6.3 percent gain in April 2009.

"Industry still has a lot of ground to make up after the deep recession production is still down by over 10 percent from its peak back in 2007," said Jonathan Loynes at Capital Economics.

"With today\'s BRC survey underlining the fragile outlook for consumer spending, it is far from clear that industry at just 17 percent of gross domestic product can drive a strong recovery in the overall economy," Loynes added.