Output and employment continue to climb in eastern region, according to Lloyds survey

Steve Elsom, of Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Steve Elsom, of Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. - Credit: Archant

Private sector growth in the East of England gained momentum during May, according to a new survey – despite other recent studies studies suggestinig a slowdown across the UK as a whole.

The Lloyds Bank East of England Business Activity Index registered a four-month high of 57.8, highlighting an increased rate of growth in output across the region.

The Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking East of England PMI survey, on which the index is based, saw both goods producers and service providers signalling rises, with the overall increase surpassing that seen at UK-wide level.

Underpinning the increase in output was a further rise in incoming new work, which expanded for the 30th consecutive month and at its fastest rate since last November.

As was the case for output, growth in the region outpaced the UK average, with survey replies indicating that new orders increased in line with improved client confidence and stronger demand.

Amid the sustained increase in new work, companies in the East of England hired additional employees in May, and at the second-strongest rate since data collection began (behind only that seen in June 2014). Job creation was noted in both the manufacturing and service sectors, with the latter leading the way..

The rise in staffing numbers was insufficient to prevent an accumulation in outstanding business. Backlogs of work increased in May, following a decline seen in April, and the rate of expansion was again faster than the UK average.

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Input prices rose in May, as has been the case every month for nmore than six years and, having gained strength since April, the rate of cost inflation was the fastest since last November. Companies reported higher salaries paid to staff and rising raw material costs. Whereas service providers recorded an increase in costs, manufacturers signalled a reduction.

Part of the extra cost burden was passed on to clients as firms raised their selling prices in May. Output charges also increased at a quicker rate, the most marked in seven months.

Steve Elsom, area director for SME banking in the East of England at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “There was more positive news for businesses in the East of England last month, as output growth remained well above the long-run average, boosted by strong increases in new work.

“In May firms saw new orders, output and employment rise at quicker rates than those seen at the national level. On the negative side, inflation rates strengthened on the back of rising raw material and salary costs.”

Recent national surveys from the services, production and construction sectors have pointed to a slowdown in growth during May, denting hopes that the UK economy will bounce back from the reduced rate of growth recorded during the first quarter of 2015. However, the Lloyds survey indicates that the eastern region is bucking the national trend.