EEF reports upbeat start to 2015 for manufacturers in the East of England

Jim Davison, EEF East of England region director.

Jim Davison, EEF East of England region director. - Credit: SOLENT NEWS AND PHOTOS

Manufacturers in the East of England have got off to an upbeat start to 2015, with output, orders and employment all heading in the right direction, according to a survey published today by manufacturers’ organisation EEF and global law firm DLA Piper.

The findings show that while the economic environment has been somewhat turbulent, the region’s manufacturers have still put in a good performance in the first quarter of the year with a net 40% reporting increased output – the second highest in the UK. The region also came second for orders with a net 33% of manufacturers reporting an increase.

There was also good news for employment, with a net 10% of the region’s manufacturers on the recruitment trail during the first quarter of the year. Investment was also very positive with a net 21% of companies reporting an increase at the start of the year.

The region’s results contrast sharply with those of other areas such as the North East and North West where the fall in the oil price – hailed as a boon for consumers, but a negative for manufacturers in the oil and gas supply chain – looks to have had an impact on orders.

This highlights the more challenging domestic demand environment faced by those with a high exposure to delayed or cancelled investments in the North Sea.

The buoyancy looks set to continue with East of England manufacturers expecting output, orders and employment to remain high in the coming quarter. Looking ahead to the rest of the year, the region’s manufacturers are among the most confident in the UK, coming in just behind their peers in the West Midlands and the South West.

Nationally, EEF is continuing to forecast healthy growth at 1.7% this year, revised down slightly from 2% last quarter. GDP is expected to increase by 2.8% in 2015, a slight upward revision from 2.6% last quarter.

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Jim Davison, East of England region director at EEF, said: “Any concerns that manufacturing activity might wobble at the start of 2015 have been quashed. These findings show that output, orders, investment and employment all headed in the right direction, which is a good indication of the confidence companies in our region feel.

“The good news is that this solid start looks set to continue. While confidence levels overall are holding firm, policies to sustain positive investment plans, encourage exporters and improve access to skills remain the order of the day.”

Richard May, partner and head of the manufacturing sector at DLA Piper, added: “As a global law firm, it is particularly pleasing for us to see new export orders growing alongside a generally positive outlook for the British manufacturing sector with companies still intending to recruit and invest.

WIt will be interesting to see what impact the result of the UK general election has on the outlook for manufacturers in the East of England in the next quarterly EEF/DLA Piper survey.”