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No blue Christmas for Yorkshire firms as confidence bounces back

Business confidence in Yorkshire & the Humber bounced back during December, rising nine points to seven per cent, according to the latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Companies in the region report higher confidence in their business prospects at eight per cent and higher economic optimism at seven per cent. Together, this gives an overall confidence reading of seven per cent.

Businesses’ hiring intentions showed that a net balance of four per cent of businesses in the region expect to hire more staff during the next year. This compares with a net balance of five per cent of firms expecting to decrease staff levels last month.

Across the UK, overall confidence edged up one point to ten per cent as firms’ confidence in their own prospects rose six points to 18 per cent, although their optimism in the economy fell to two per cent.

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.

Kelly Green, regional director for Yorkshire & the Humber at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “It’s great to see both confidence levels and hiring intentions returning to positive figures this month – which puts Yorkshire firms on a good footing going into 2020.

“The growth in optimism could be attributed to pre-election hopes of a decisive result that would provide greater clarity on the likely course of Brexit and the economy, allowing  businesses to plan ahead with more certainty.”

Across the region, businesses were evenly split over whether the UK’s exit from the European Union was having a positive or negative impact on their expectations for business activity.

That compares with last month, when a balance of four per cent said they felt the UK’s exit from the European Union was having a negative impact.

Businesses in the West Midlands had the highest confidence for the third month running, at 23 per cent, ahead of the East Midlands at 18 per cent, and London at 16 per cent.

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

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

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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