Suffolk: Chamber survey reveals uplift for county’s manufacturers

A “RESILIENT” Suffolk economy is managing to buck the national trend but it is still feeling under pressure, a survey has found.

Suffolk Chamber’s economic survey for the fourth quarter of 2011 found the county’s service sector under particular pressure while conditions eased for manufacturers.

But while a new recession is not inevitable, the continuing stagnation of the economy needs to be addressed quickly, the study found.

“2011 proved to be a very difficult year.” said chamber president Dr Peter Funnell. “Business has throughout the year displayed great resilience but we now need stronger measures from the Government to stimulate economic growth.”

The survey was conducted in early December and the results were analysed by a research team at Suffolk County Council.

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“The last 12 months have been very challenging for the entire business community and the final quarter seems to have been as tough as any, fuelled undoubtedly by the worsening eurozone crisis,” Dr Funnell said.

Manufacturing performance in the county appeared to buck the national figures in the fourth quarter.

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This was in contrast to the third quarter of 2011 when Suffolk manufacturers seemed to be more challenged than UK manufacturing generally.

The domestic market order book showed a marked improvement on Quarter 3 and manufacturers also saw improving export order books, buoyed by a weak pound.

However, the recent surge in the pound against the euro may be making life tougher for exporters.

“Manufacturers are telling us that they are more optimistic about future prospects, again bucking national trends.” said Dr Funnell.

“Employment has remained stable throughout the last quarter and manufacturers are optimistic about employment opportunities increasing early in 2012.”

Investment in plant and machinery and in training were up on the previous quarter, a positive knock-on effect with manufacturers’ confidence in turnover and profitability also improving

However, the service sector saw a downward trend from Quarter 3 continue. Both domestic market deliveries and orders fell markedly on the previous three monthsm and both domestic and export figures were worse than the national figures which have shown a slight improvement.

“All of this seems to describe a shifting and often contradictory picture from quarter to quarter,” said Suffolk Chamber chief executive John Dugmore.

“The overall picture for 2011 showed a resilient business sector struggling within an environment where robust economic growth was nigh on impossible to achieve.”

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