Lloyds Bank’s Business Barometer survey has found business confidence across the UK to be at its highest level since the pandemic began one year ago.
Respondents reported that gains in trading prospects thanks to the clarity of reopening dates for many sectors and wider optimism about the economy as a whole were contributing to more businesses reporting that they had better prospects now than at any other time since the start of the pandemic. Overall business confidence rose to 15% nationwide, with North-west businesses even more confident at 26% on the scale from -100 to +100, according to survey data gathered between the 1st and 15th March.
All regions in England, and Wales, reported a return to optimism for the economy; only Scotland and Northern Ireland remain in negative territory.
In the sectors, manufacturing and retail recorded the highest confidence levels, both at 25%, while services and construction rose to 11% and 12% respectively. Hiring intentions also returned to positive territory for the first time since the start of the pandemic, with over a quarter of companies expecting to add to headcount in the coming year.
Paul Gordon, Managing Director for SME and Mid Corporates, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said:
We have completed a full circle since lockdown began in March 2020 and it is uplifting to see businesses portraying confidence for the months ahead. The regions have reported a tremendous result in confidence, especially England which is positive across the board. In the sectors, the uptick in confidence for manufacturing is driven by strong trading prospects, while in retail, there is an anticipation that pent-up demand will drive consumption when restrictions are lifted. The months ahead will play a pivotal role in charting the course for the UK’s recovery and we remain by the side of businesses as they go along on this journey.”
Martyn Kendrick, regional director for the North West at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said:
Business confidence has risen for the fourth consecutive month in the North West, and as we mark the first anniversary of lockdown, it’s encouraging to see firms feeling more optimistic now that the end of restrictions is in sight. Whatever the coming months may bring, well remain by the side of businesses across the region as they look to recover and create new growth opportunities.”