Business confidence in Yorkshire rose eight points during March to 12%, the highest reading since March 2020, according to the latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. The data has been released just a week after the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 lockdown.
Companies reported higher confidence in their own business prospects month-on-month, up 16 points to 8%. When taken alongside their optimism in the economy, which remained at 16%, this gave a headline confidence reading of 12%.
The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends both regionally and nationwide.
When it comes to jobs, a net balance of 8% of firms in the region expect to increase staff levels over the next year up seven points on last month.
The national picture
Overall UK business confidence rose for a second consecutive month in March. Firms’ confidence increased by 13 points to 15%, the highest reading since February 2020, before coronavirus was confirmed as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
UK firms’ economic optimism also increased by 15 points to 17%, while confidence in their own business prospects jumped 10 points to 12%.
In fact, every UK region and nation reported an increase in overall confidence during March, with most reporting a double-digit rise month-on-month. The North East (1% to 26%), West Midlands (3% to 27%) and East of England (-8% to 12%) reported the largest increases. Scotland was the only area to remain in net negative territory despite an increase in confidence, giving a reading of -2%.
In the sectors, manufacturing and retail recorded the highest confidence levels, both at 25%, while services and construction rose to 11% and 12% respectively.
Steve Harris, regional director for Yorkshire & the Humber at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “It’s encouraging to see confidence steadily increasing across the region as firms look ahead to the reopening of the economy one year after lockdown restrictions were originally imposed. Equally significant is the planned uptick in job creation for the second month in a row, which suggests firms are feeling more optimistic about their long-term outlook.
“However, major challenges remain, and we’ll remain by the side of Yorkshire businesses in the months ahead.”
Hann-Ju Ho, Senior Economist, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “It’s been a year since the first lockdown and the surge in confidence this month tells us firms are increasingly confident about economic recovery.
“The broadly positive outlook is driven by steady vaccine deployment, the roadmap out of lockdown and the extension of government support measures. It will be interesting to see whether the momentum for stronger business optimism is sustained in the months ahead.”