Suffolk plc ‘doing well’, chamber economic survey suggests

Ipswich Waterfront. Picture: OWEN HINES

Ipswich Waterfront. Picture: OWEN HINES

Suffolk plc is “doing well” but recruitment remains a worry, a survey suggests.

But the latest figures from Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) for the first three months of 2018 show a narrowing gap with the rest of region.

The figures, based on responses from 128 Suffolk-based organisations, with 27 from the manufacturing sector and 101 involved in services, were all in positive territory, with more firms reporting positive responses than negative ones.

But the balance of manufacturing firms reporting an increase in domestic sales fell from +56% to +33%, while it remained the same at +27% for those in services.

Suffolk Chamber’s communications manager Paul Simon said the figures suggested a readjustment from the highs reached in the last quarter of 2017.

“But there is no cause for alarm from one set of quarterly figures,” he said.

The balance of manufacturing firms reporting an increase in domestic orders fell from +44% to +31%, and fell from +19% to +13% for those in services. Meanwhile, those reporting a rise in overseas sales fell from +35% to +22%, while the East of England as a whole saw a rise from +20% to +30%

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The balance of manufacturing firms reporting an increase in employment fell from +36% to +15%, compared with fall across the whole of the East of England from +26% to +24%.

The balance of manufacturing firms expecting to recruit staff in the future fell slightly from +33% to +30% for manufacturers, with a similar fall across the region from +25 to +22%

Services firms expecting to recruit staff in the future rose slightly from +24% to +25% compared with a small regional fall from +20% to +18%

The balance of manufacturing firms experiencing difficulties in finding staff fell from +88% to +81%, with those in services reporting a fall from +79% to +60%

“Overall this is another strong set of returns suggesting that Suffolk plc is doing well and believes that it will continue to do well both domestically and in exporting over the next few months or so,” said Mr Simon.

“However, recruitment remains a worry, especially for manufacturers. This fact will strengthen our resolve to work through the British Chambers of Commerce to persuade the Government to settle on a post-Brexit immigration policy that meets the needs of businesses and doesn’t try to impose an arbitrary cap. That would not be in our county and our country’s best interests.”