North West firms expect to increase staff numbers over coming year

Business confidence in the North West remained unchanged in February at 44%, according to the latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Companies in the North West reported lower confidence in their own business prospects month-on-month, down three points to 44%.

When taken alongside their optimism in the economy, up two points to 44%, this gives a headline confidence reading of 44%.

The Business Barometer, which questions 1,200 businesses monthly, provides early signals about UK economic trends both regionally and nationwide. This month’s survey captured responses between 1st and 15th February before the removal of various COVID restrictions across the UK’s nations.

A net balance of 46% of businesses in the region expect to increase staff levels over the next year, up 14 points on last month and the highest reading since last October.

Overall UK business confidence saw an uptick in February, rising five points from January’s reading of 39% to 44% – its highest level since last September.
Firms remained positive about their future trading prospects, with a four-point increase month-on-month to 45%, while optimism in the economy overall also increased by five points to 43%. The net balance of businesses planning to create new jobs rose by nine points to 38%.

Every UK nation and region maintained a positive overall confidence reading in February.

The North East (up 17 points to 57%), South West (up nine points to 46%) and West Midlands (up eight points to 47%) saw the biggest increases month on month, with the North East now reporting the highest levels of business confidence overall. Along with the North West, only Scotland (down two points to 35%) did not have a higher confidence reading than last month.

Martyn Kendrick, regional director for the North West at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Against what remains a turbulent economic backdrop, it is encouraging to see business confidence levels remain stable across the region.

“We know that there will be challenges to come with rising costs and supply chain problems, but the resilience of North West SMEs will be vital in helping them to maintain their ambition and keep pushing for growth.”

The further easing of COVID restrictions in January had a positive impact across the sectors with strong increases in manufacturing (up 11 points to 54%) and construction (up 18 points to 51%) with both reaching their highest level since the start of the pandemic. Retail confidence rose three points to 47%, another high since the start of COVID. Services remained unchanged at 38%.

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