Business confidence in the North West rose eight points during April to 20 per cent, making it the second most confident region in the UK, according to the latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.
Companies in the region report higher confidence in their own business prospects, up three points to 27 per cent, and higher economic optimism, up 11 points to 13 per cent.
Together, this gives an overall confidence of 20 per cent, which is second only to the West Midlands (28 per cent).
Businesses’ hiring intentions show that a net balance of 19 per cent of firms in the region now expect to hire more staff during the next year, up eight points on last month.
The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends both regionally and nationwide.
Martyn Kendrick, regional director for the North West at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “It’s great to see the North West bouncing back after the fall in confidence experienced earlier on in the year.
“Despite facing into a number of headwinds, it’s encouraging to see firms in the region feeling optimistic about their growth and planning to increase their headcount and capacity as a result.
“Whatever challenges and opportunities lie ahead for businesses in the North West, we’ll be standing firmly by their side. As well as offering practical support and advice we have committed to lending £1.3 billion to North West firms in 2019.”
National and sector picture
Across the UK, overall confidence climbed four points to 14 per cent as both firms’ optimism about the economy and their confidence in their own prospects continued to climb from lows recorded earlier this year.
Companies’ economic optimism rose to four per cent, while confidence in their own business prospects climbed three points to 23 per cent.
After the West Midlands and the North West, London had the next highest overall confidence at 19 per cent.
Those in Wales were the least confident, with an overall confidence of minus one per cent, 15 points below the national average.
The overall confidence of UK firms in manufacturing, construction and services all improved – but retail sector confidence fell.
Manufacturing and construction confidence rose for the first time in three months, increasing six points to 16 per cent and two points to 15 per cent respectively. Services confidence increased by five points to 12%.
Meanwhile, the retail sector – which posted the highest confidence in March – fell this month by six points, placing it on a par with the manufacturing sector at 16 per cent.
Hann-Ju Ho, Senior Economist, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “While business confidence remains low when viewed against the historic average, it is certainly encouraging to see an increase in overall optimism for the second month in a row.
“Firms appear more positive about both their own trading prospects and the broader economy, although their assessment of the potential impact of the UK leaving the EU remains unchanged. We will have to wait and see whether this partial rise converts into a sustained recovery.”