Business optimism grows in region – but job cuts loom
PUBLISHED: 00:04 30 September 2020
Optimism is on the rise among the East of England business community – in spite of the challenges they face from the coronavirus crisis and job losses on the horizon.
Overall, confidence rose by 17 points to take it to -5% – the largest month-on-month increase of all UK regions, according to the latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.
The barometer takes the pressure reading across 1,200 companies nationally, recording the balance between positive and negative views.
While still in negative territory, the uplift reflects an increase in demand for their products, said David Akinson, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking’s regional director for the East of England.
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While the majority of firms continued to see demand negatively affected by coronavirus during September, the picture is improving month-on-month, the survey found.
A total of 60% experienced a fall in demand for their products and services, down eight points on the month before – but 11% experienced an increase in demand, up seven points on August.
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However, many businesses are expecting to make redundancies following the end of the furlough scheme at the end of October, with only 37% expecting to bring back more than 90% of their employees, the study found.
However, almost half (44%) of East England firms aren’t currently using the Job Retention Scheme compared to the UK average of 38%.
A majority (56%) of businesses said they could, in theory, operate at full capacity while remaining Covid-secure. However, 32% said they couldn’t operate fully within the rules.
Of the 42% of businesses reporting disruption to their supply chain during September, 27% expect the situation to improve within six months, while 6% expect it will take more than 12 months to return to normal levels.
Mr Atkinson said firms in the East of England had been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis but said it was “encouraging” that business confidence saw such a jump in September.
“The data indicates that more firms have started to see an uplift in demand, and most businesses are confident they can successfully operate while remaining Covid-secure. However, a difficult few months lie ahead with new restrictions for firms to navigate. We’ll continue to be by the side of businesses across the East as they look to overcome these challenges,” he said.
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