East Anglia: Region’s firms report increased output for fifth month running

Steve Elsom, Lloyds TSB

Steve Elsom, Lloyds TSB - Credit: Archant

COMPANIES in the East of England reported a further rise in output levels during April, extending the current sequence of growth to five months, according to a new report.

New orders also increased, and at their fastest pace since January 2012, while employment levels also rose for a fifth consecutive month, albeit only slightly, the latest Lloyds TSB PMI (purchasing managers’ index) study reveals.

The seasonally adjusted Lloyds TSB East of England Business Activity Index – which measures the combined output of the region’s manufacturing and service sectors – advanced to 51.5 in April, up from March’s 50.4.

Weather improvements after an unusually cold winter and the securing of new clients accounted for much of the latest rise, according to panellists.

New business placed at East of England companies increased during April. Driven by a solid rise of new work at service providers, the pace of expansion accelerated to the highest since January 2012, but remained below the overall UK average. There was some anecdotal evidence that improved business confidence among clients accounted for much of the latest increase.

While workforce numbers in the East of England increased for a fifth straight month, the latest rate of job creation eased from March and was only marginal. Where higher employment levels were reported, companies often linked this to a rise in order book volumes.

Meanwhile, backlogs of work were broadly unchanged from the previous survey period, with 62% of respondents indicating no-change in outstanding business.

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The April data indicated a further increase in input costs, albeit at the slowest pace in seven survey periods. Sector data suggested that companies in both the manufacturing and service sectors faced higher cost burdens in April. Panellists attributed the cost rise to increased utility bills and higher import prices.

In response to higher input costs, East of England companies raised their output charges during the latest survey period. The rate of charge inflation was up fractionally from March and remained above the overall UK average for the third month in a row.

Steve Elsom, area director for Lloyds TSB Commercial Banking in East Anglia, said: “After an unusually long winter, improved weather conditions seem to have contributed to increased business activity at the start of the second quarter of the year.

“A solid rise in new business orders also offers hope for further growth in the coming months, and while higher input prices can still be seen as a concern for companies in the East of England, the rate of cost inflation decreased markedly and was below the overall UK average.”