Vaccine drive and roadmap boost East's business confidence

Shoppers on London Road North in Lowestoft ahead of the second lockdown

Businesses in the East of England are more confident than they have been since the start of the pandemic - Credit: Mick Howes

Business confidence in the East of England has risen back to pre-pandemic levels, according to a recent survey.

The Lloyds Bank’s Business Barometer for March 2021 questioned 101 businesses in the East of England and found that business confidence has risen 20 points during March — taking it to its first positive reading in a year.  

Firms felt more confident about their own business prospects month-on-month — up 21 points at 16%. Their optimism about the economy in general had also risen 19 points to 8%.

Taken together these give a headline confidence reading of 12%, the highest level in a year.

When it comes to jobs, 5% of firms in the region expect to increase staff levels over the next year. This is up nine points on last month when 4% of firms had planned to reduce their headcount.

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Dave Atkinson, regional director for the East of England at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “The confidence levels recorded in our region this month are the highest seen for a year and, as we mark the first anniversary of lockdown, it’s encouraging to see firms being buoyed by the imminent reopening of the economy.

“Businesses in the East of England have proven their resilience throughout this crisis.” 

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Nationally, firms are slightly more confident than in the East. The 12,000 firms quizzed, reported national confidence rose 13 points to 15%, the highest reading since February 2020.

The manufacturing and retail sectors recorded the highest confidence levels, both at 25%, while services and construction rose to 11% and 12% respectively.

Hann-Ju Ho, a Senior Economist at the bank, said: “It’s been a year since the first lockdown and the surge in confidence this month tells us firms are increasingly confident about economic recovery.

“The broadly positive outlook is driven by steady vaccine deployment, the roadmap out of lockdown and the extension of government support measures. It will be interesting to see whether the momentum for stronger business optimism is sustained in the months ahead.”

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