North West business confidence falls in April

Firms in the North West remain gloomy about their prospects in 2024 despite falling inflation, new data shows. Tony McDonough reports

Warehouse, factory, business, manufacturing, economy
North West business confidence falls seven points in April


Business confidence in the North West fell seven points during April to 36%, according to new data.

Just a day after LBN reported there had been a 28% surge in the number of Liverpool city region businesses in ‘significant financial distress’, the latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking paints a further worrying picture.

It revealed irms’ optimism in their own trading prospects fell seven points to 48%, while optimism in the economy dipped seven points to 24%

North West businesses identified their top target areas for growth in the next six months as evolving their offering with new products and services (39%), introducing new technology (28%) and investing in their team, including new staff and training (28%).

A net balance of 36% of businesses in the region also expect to increase staff levels over the next year, up 13 points on last month. 

Overall UK business confidence held steady at 42% in April, the same level as recorded in March and February. 

While firms’ confidence in their own prospects dipped by four points to 45%, their confidence in the economy rose by four points to 39%. The net balance of companies planning to increase staff levels over the coming 12 months climbed six points to 33%.

The East of England was the most confident UK nation or region in April (56%), followed by Wales (51%) and the North East (46%). 

Businesses in the manufacturing sector reported increased confidence this month, recording an increased score of 45% (up four points) which is the highest level for three months.

Similarly, confidence among firms in the services sector (42%) and construction (41%) also improved, largely driven by greater economic optimism. 

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In retail, confidence pulled back slightly from last month’s strong showing to 40%, illustrating that confidence in this sector remains fragile.

Jenny France, area director in the North West at Lloyds Bank, said: “North West firms’ confidence is yet to find a stable footing this year, registering two months of growth and two months of decline.

“This in itself shouldn’t create cause for concern – inflation is falling, but more slowly than hoped, for example, and business confidence could simply be reflecting a shifting economic landscape.”

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