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Companies in the East Midlands reported higher confidence in their own business prospects month-on-month, up 20 points at 47%.  When taken alongside their optimism in the economy, down 15 points to 23%, this gives a headline confidence reading of 34%. 

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 20% of businesses in the region expect to increase staff levels over the next year, down 15 points on last month.  

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 reporting the highest levels of business confidence overall. Only the North West (which remained unchanged at 44%) and Scotland (down two points to 35%) did not have higher confidence readings than last month. 

Amanda Dorel, regional director for the East Midlands at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “It’s pleasing to see business confidence on the rise again in the East Midlands after a few months in decline. Firms are ambitious about their own prospects too, an encouraging sign that suggests they are targeting growth once more. 

“As the weather improves, the region’s hospitality and leisure industries in particular will be hoping to receive a boost from the growing number of tourists visiting the area. 

“Whatever lies ahead, we will continue to support the region’s business community as they look to build on this positive momentum.” 

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%. 

Hann-Ju Ho, Senior Economist Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “It’s extremely encouraging to see a such an improvement in business confidence reaching its highest level since September, fuelled by trading prospects reaching their highest level since the start of pandemic. 

“With hiring intentions also reaching their highest level since the end of the furlough scheme there is hope that the easing of supply bottlenecks will alleviate a number of challenges that businesses have been facing and help underpin the UK’s growth in 2022.” 

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