Strong manufacturing demand from home and abroad pushed the employment index above the 50-point level for the first time since April 2008.
The UK manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) from Cips, gave a main reading of 56.7 for January. This is up from 54.6 in December, well above analysts' expectations of 53.9.
PMI's compilers identified a surge in new export orders as the main driver of manufacturing growth. Manufacturing jobs were on the upswing for the first time in almost two years.
Cips chief executive David Noble said: "For the first time in 21 months, there has been an increase in employment, usually a lagging indicator, and it suggests that firms are becoming much more confident about the future."
The PMI data is compiled using responses by 600 purchasing managers on questions ranging from production levels to new orders.