Lloyds Bank’s Business Barometer for January 2018 shows:
- Overall confidence is higher among North West firms than anywhere else in the UK at 47 per cent, 12 points above the national average
- Economic optimism in the region stands at 46 per cent
- Almost half of firms (46 per cent) plan to increase staffing levels
Business confidence in the North West is the highest in the UK in January, according to the latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.
Companies in the North West report higher than average business prospects at 48 per cent and the highest economic optimism at 46 per cent.
Together, this gave an overall confidence of 47 per cent, which is 12 points above the UK average of 35 per cent, and joint highest in the country alongside London.
Nationally, overall confidence rose seven points to a nine-month high, driven mainly by a rise in firms’ economic optimism.
The Business Barometer provides early signals about UK economic trends and has been run monthly since January 2002. This is the first time that the survey, which questioned 1,200 businesses, has been carried out on a regional as well as national basis.
Job creation and wage growth
Companies’ hiring intentions show that a net balance of 46 per cent of businesses in the region expect to hire more staff during the next year, which is the highest reported of any UK region.
Meanwhile firms expect a median annual increase in average pay in the region of one to two per cent during 2018
Glenn Bemment, regional director for the North West at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “It’s fantastic to see that North West firms are some of the most confident and optimistic in the UK.
“The fact that almost half of the region’s firms are planning to increase staffing levels in 2018 is another great indicator for the regional economy in the year ahead.”
North West businesses’ economic optimism (46 per cent) is 15 points higher than the national average of 31 per cent.
Meanwhile, their confidence in their own business prospects (48 per cent) is nine points higher than across the UK as a whole.
Across the region, a net balance of 13 per cent of businesses feel that the UK’s exit from the European Union is having a positive impact on their expectations for business activity.
Overall confidence is highest among businesses in London and the North West, both at 47 per cent, followed by the West Midlands at 45 per cent.
Businesses in Wales are the least confident, with an overall confidence 21 points below the national average at 14 per cent.
Figure 1 Breakdown of overall business confidence (January 2018)
Hann-Ju Ho, senior economist for Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Although business prospects have softened from last month’s high, overall UK business confidence has started the year on a strong footing. The sharp increase in economic optimism signals that downside risks have eased and the economy is likely to continue to expand in Q1 this year.”