The fall in the headline PMI mainly reflected weaker contributions from new orders and employment growth at the end of the year.
The rate of manufacturing job creation was the softest since August 2017. More cautious staff hiring policies were partly due to a drop in business optimism to its lowest for 26 months, which a number of firms attributed to concerns about the outlook for the global economy. Some firms also commented on pressure on operating margins following a sustained period of rising raw material costs.
On the other hand, manufacturing production volumes increased solidly in December, with the rate of expansion unchanged since the previous month.