British businesses saw a strong rebound in orders in March as they prepared for the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions this month, and ramped up their hiring for the first time since the pandemic struck, a survey showed. The IHS Markit/CIPS composite Purchasing Managers’ Index – measuring Britain’s huge services sector and its manufacturers – jumped to 56.4 from 49.6 in February, going into positive territory above 50.0 for the first time in three months. However, the final reading was a little lower than a preliminary estimate of 56.6. Britain’s economy contracted by almost 10% last year but is expected to grow by around 5% or 6% in 2021 as the country makes quick progress with its vaccination programme. Two thirds of services firms, which have typically been hit hardest by the lockdowns, expected business to increase over the year ahead, the most positive reading since the end of 2006.