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East Midlands firms end 2019 on a high as business confidence rises

East Midlands firms ended the year on a high as business confidence rose four points during December to 18%, the second highest in the UK, according to the latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Lloyds Bank’s Business Barometer for December 2019 shows:

  • Overall confidence for firms in the East Midlands rose four points in the past month to 18%
  • Economic optimism in the region stood at 15%, a five point increase from November
  • Firms’ confidence in their own business prospects was 21%, compared with 16% last month
  • Businesses in the East Midlands expect to hire more staff during the next year than anywhere else in the UK, with a net balance of 28%

Companies in the East Midlands report higher confidence in their business prospects at 21% and higher economic optimism at 15%. Together, this gives an overall confidence of 18%.

A net balance of 28% of businesses now expect to hire more staff during the next year, up 20 points on last month and higher than any other region in the UK in terms of hiring intentions.

Across the UK, overall confidence edged up one point to 10% as firms’ confidence in their own prospects rose six points to 18%, although their optimism in the economy fell to 2%.

The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends both regionally and nationwide. This month’s survey was carried out before the result of last week’s General Election was known.

Amanda Dorel, regional director for the East Midlands at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said:

“It’s a real boost to see businesses across the region ending this year full of confidence and planning to create new jobs.

“There will be significant opportunities across a range of sectors with the continued investment in the area through the Midlands Engine and significant regeneration projects in the region’s major cities, such as at Nottingham’s Southern Gateway and the Waterside in Leicester.

“The East Midlands remains a hub of innovation, and we will continue to work closely with ambitious firms to ensure that they are well positioned to enjoy a prosperous year in 2020.”

Across the region, a net balance of 6% of businesses said they felt that the UK’s exit from the European Union was having a negative impact on their expectations for business activity, down eight points on a month ago.

Regional picture

At 18%, the East Midlands had the second highest overall confidence in the UK, behind the West Midlands at 23%, and ahead of London at 16%.

Those in East of England were the least confident, with an overall confidence of -2%, 12 points below the national average.

National overview

In December, overall business confidence saw a marked improvement in the manufacturing sector, increasing 17 points to 27%. Confidence in the retail sector increased by one point to 22%, while confidence in the service sector stayed broadly steady at 4%. The construction sector saw a slight decrease of four points to 16%.

Hann-Ju Ho, Senior Economist, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said:

“As we come to the end of what has undoubtedly been a turbulent year, it is encouraging to see sustained increases in overall business confidence and the sharp improvement in manufacturing confidence.

“There is now clarity over the UK’s departure from the EU, but the focus will turn to whether a new trade agreement can be negotiated during the transition period which currently runs until the end of next year.”


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