County’s service sector firms poised to take on more staff

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber, and Sarah Howard, its president.

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber, and Sarah Howard, its president. - Credit: Archant

The latest economic survey for Suffolk has shown that businesses are holding up well.

The county’s service sector firms are taking on staff, the British Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) for the third quarter (Q3) of 2015 reveals.

Across the country, the results indicate “moderate” economic growth over the next year, but the UK recovery is facing “serious challenges”, the British Chambers of Commerce has warned.

In both manufacturing and services, most key balances were weaker in the third quarter compared to the second quarter across the UK, although there were a few improvements.

In services, there were improvements in the domestic sales balance and employment balance, but all the other key service balances - for exports, confidence, investment in plant & machinery, employment growth expectations, and cash flow - worsened.

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In the manufacturing sector, the balances for exports, investment, confidence, employment expectations and cashflow all recorded compared to quarter 2.

However, service sector companies in Suffolk are expecting employment levels to rise again in quarter 4 while the manufacturing sector in the county is reporting a strong increase in confidence in its profitability.

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“Manufacturers in Suffolk are clearly having to work harder than ever to secure orders and drive up sales.” said Sarah Howard, president of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.

“On the back of that hard work it is encouraging to see them reporting increasing investment and growing confidence. Coupled with the good news of our service sector remaining confident against national trends this is something to be welcomed.”

Export deliveries among Suffolk based manufacturers remained stable in Quarter 3 indicating that the same number of businesses saw a rise in exports as those that saw a fall.

Further good news was reported in the Suffolk employment balances with a number of in-quarter improvements which showed a rise of three percentage points. Prospects for Suffolk manufacturing sector employment in the coming quarter were also up for the second consecutive quarter following recent falls.

The manufacturing sector investment in plant and machinery rose dramatically, with a 31% point increase. Investment in training among manufacturers also saw an increase.

“The QES is an important regular and consistent snapshot of the views and experiences of firms across the county,” said Ms Howard.

“This latest report suggests that Suffolk firms are more optimistic about their prospects, with all of the key confidence balances bucking a national downward trend.”

The report showed the service sector reflecting manufacturing, with confidence in Suffolk closing the gap on the national average. The Suffolk service sector confidence in turnover remains very strong after an upturn of eight percentage points in Q3 and confidence in profitability balances followed a similar pattern.

“The Q3 2015 results point to continued and moderate growth in the Suffolk economy over the next year which will be driven by services and by domestic demand,” said Suffolk Chamber chief executive John Dugmore.

But he added: “We do need to recognise that export balances have weakened in both main sectors which suggests that the pace of gross domestic product (GDP) growth has slowed slightly.

The picture in Suffolk reflected a UK economy which was growing in strength, he said.

“We have higher growth than in most G7 economies and a dynamic and flexible labour market but the recovery remains fragile and we must continue to do all that we can to help drive up exports.”

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