East business confidence on the rise, latest poll shows

Camplings. Photo: Camplings.

Camplings. Photo: Camplings. - Credit: Archant

Business confidence in the East of England is bouncing back – despite rising costs and supply chain challenges, a survey suggests.

The latest Lloyd’s Bank Business Barometer for February 2022 shows a marked five point rise in optimism in the region to take it to 52% – the second highest across the UK.

The barometer measures the balance of opinion among a survey group of 1,200 companies – including 100 businesses in the East of England – and took place between February 1 and 15. A 0% reading indicates firms are neither positive nor negative.

The North East saw the most marked change and was most upbeat(up 17 points to 57%). The East was next and then came South West (up nine points to 46%) and West Midlands (up eight points to 47%) with the biggest increases month-on-month. Only the North West (which remained unchanged at 44%) and Scotland (down two points to 35%) did not have higher confidence readings than last month.

Overall UK business confidence rose five points from January’s reading of 39% to 44% – its highest level since last September. 

Firms remained positive about their future trading prospects, with a four-point increase month-on-month to 45%, while optimism in the economy overall also increased by five points to 43%.

The net balance of businesses planning to create new jobs rose by nine points to 38%.

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In this region, a net balance of 42% of businesses expect to boost their workforce over the next year – a rise of 11% on January.  

Dave Atkinson, regional director at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “This latest uptick in firms’ confidence means the East of England remains one of the most optimistic regions in the UK. This is no mean feat against the backdrop of ongoing supply chain issues and inflation.

“Bumps on the road will undoubtedly remain, and we’ll be by the side of businesses across the East to help them navigate these and continue to push for growth.”

The further easing of Covid restrictions in January had a positive impact across the sectors with strong increases in manufacturing (up 11 points to 54%) and construction (up 18 points to 51%) with both reaching their highest level since the start of the pandemic. Retail confidence rose three points to 47%, another high since the start of Covid. Services remained unchanged at 38%.

Hann-Ju Ho, senior economist for Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “It’s extremely encouraging to see a such an improvement in business confidence reaching its highest level since September, fuelled by trading prospects reaching their highest level since the start of pandemic.

“With hiring intentions also reaching their highest level since the end of the furlough scheme there is hope that the easing of supply bottlenecks will alleviate a number of challenges that businesses have been facing and help underpin the UK’s growth in 2022.”