Business confidence remains resilient

Despite volatile market conditions, small business confidence continued to hold strong in February, according to new data.

The latest Business Barometer, which measures business confidence based on prospects and economic optimism, decreased slightly from 35% to 33% month-on-month.

This is above the long-term average of 32% but it does mean that confidence levels are above those noted in the final quarter of 2017.

Economic optimism did not improve from January, although it did follow an 8% surge from December - influenced by the uncertainty that continues to surround negotiations regarding the UK' membership of the EU.

The data from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking is used as a measure of the economy and the proportion of firms with confidence in their won prospects fell further in February.

The figure dropped 4% month-on-month to 35% overall, while that figure is significantly below the long-term average of 44%.

A degree of stability in the numbers showcases resilience among the nation's small firms, according to Hann-Ju Ho, senior economist for Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Hiring intentions among small businesses also slowed in February following a seven-month high, yet the signs remain positive.

Many revealed that they expect average wage growth to remain broadly the same to current levels, while the net balance for anticipated staff levels hovered around 25%.

Pay growth rose between 1% and 2% in 2017 on average, and there is little to indicate that similar figures will not be recorded this year.

Confidence levels varied by region too, with half of businesses in London confident on their futures, followed by 42% in the East Midlands and North East.

The overall UK confidence level was at 33%, with the South East, Wales and Yorkshire and the Humber displaying the lowest confidence, all at 27% below.

By sector, the manufacturing industry had the highest level of confidence at 41%, while the construction sector displayed 37% confidence, despite the collapse of Carillion.

Confidence in the retail sector has also improved, although the lack of confidence in business prospects will be a concern for the majority of companies.

Those firms that can identify potential issues at an early stage could implement turnaround management practices or seek professional advice.

The early that a business can act, the greater the likelihood of finding a solution that is appropriate for their situation.

By Phil Smith


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