Suffolk Chamber survey reveals strong end to 2017 for county’s firms

Nick Burfield of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.
Picture: David Garrad

Nick Burfield of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce. Picture: David Garrad - Credit: Archant

Suffolk businesses have reported a strong end to 2017, with sales, orders and employment all improving during the final three months of the year compared with the previous quarter.

Data from Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) also show that business performance and sentiment in the county is largely ahead of that for the East of England as a whole.

Growth is sales was particularly strong for manufacturing firms in Suffolk with the balance of those reporting an increase over those seeing a decline rising from plus 26% in the third quarter to plus 56% for domestic sales and from plus 29% to 35% for overseas sales.

The balance among service sector firms, relating solely to domestic sales, also improved slightly, from plus 25% to plus 27%.

The picture relating to new orders was more mixed, with the balance for manufacturing firms rising from plus 33% to plus 44% while that for services firms dipped from plus 21% to plus 19% (both comparisons relating only to domestic orders).

Suffolk’s manufacturers also performed particularly strongly in terms of jobs, with the balance of firms reporting an increase in employment rising from plus 29% to plus 36%, compared with the East of England as a whole rising from plus 22% to plus 26%

Similarly, the balance of manufacturing firms in the county expecting to recruit staff in the future rose from plus 31% to plus 33% compared with a fall across the East of England from plus 33% to plus 25%.

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The balance of manufacturing firms experiencing difficulties in finding staff rose from 71% to 88%, with those in services reporting an increase from 62% to 79%

Nick Burfield, Suffolk Chamber’s policy director, said: “These figures show that Suffolk plc is outperforming the rest of the region according to most indices – in some cases by a country mile. The quarter-on-quarter figures also show a further strengthening in performance and sentiment from Q3 to Q4.

“The only main concern is that, possibly as a result of this strong performance, a very high percentage of Suffolk businesses are struggling to recruit staff. Unless this is addressed soon it could become a brake upon the further economic success of the county.”

A total of 167 Suffolk businesses responded to the survey, with the results being analysed for the chamber by Suffolk Knowledge, part of Suffolk County Council.