NECC: Growth continues in the North East but can't be taken for granted

Firms across the North East continue to recruit at record levels - but the NECC is urging action to maintain growth

Mark Stephenson of NECC
Mark Stephenson of NECC

The North East Chamber of Commerce is calling for action to ensure growth does not stall, after its latest survey showed dips in some indicators.

Following two record-breaking quarters, the new NECC Quarterly Economic Survey has returned some drops, suggesting the positive trend seen throughout the last year has slowed.

However, it also shows that almost two thirds of members are seeking full time employees while more than half are looking for full-time permanent workers.

The Quarter 3 QES also recorded rises in businesses operating at full capacity, with four out of 10 firms responding positively, up on both last quarter and the third quarter in 2013.

NECC policy and research manager Mark Stephenson said: “After three incredible quarters it was inevitable that at some point the record breaking figures would dip.

“In spite of several key indicators dipping in Q3, North East business confidence continues and growth is still incredibly strong by the standards set in the last five years.

“However, more firms are reporting capacity constraints and while QES indicator levels remain historically strong, new found growth must not be taken for granted.

“To sustain our positive momentum we require progress on key infrastructure projects, we need the major political parties to unveil pro-business policies in the run-up to the general election and greater devolved powers for the North East as the Government looks to agree a devolution settlement with Scotland.”

The QES is a trends survey that shows the health and direction of the North East economy, measuring across 11 separate indicators, with any score above zero indicating trading conditions are improving.

Positively, expectations for future profitability have risen by over five points on the previous quarter and over 12 points on a year ago.

Expectations for future turnover dropped by 0.1 point on three months ago and increased by over 10 points since 2013.

Following incredible results in the last three quarters, businesses have reported a dip in trade in trade with domestic and foreign markets, although domestic sales remain much stronger than this time last year.

The overall mood remains positive even with domestic and export sales falling.

Confidence remains in the manufacturing and service sectors, but at lower levels than those seen in recent quarters.

Across most indicators, year-on-year scores remain positive, the only exceptions being cashflow and export orders.

NECC president David Laws added: “Our economy is growing, as is our workforce, yet as a region we still have an unacceptable rate of unemployment, even with record numbers of people in jobs.

“It has been a turbulent month or two. For a while the future of the UK was in doubt and regardless of which side of that particular debate one landed on it was clear that the uncertainty it generated wasn’t helpful for businesses.

“The extent to which it impacted on this survey is moot. However, what is undeniable is that to enable greater levels of growth devolution promised as a result of the Scottish referendum must be delivered equitably and in a meaningful way to regions.

“Only that way can we make the appropriate decisions based on facts here in the North East – not the South East – to equip ourselves with the workforce and the infrastructure to grow our economy further.”

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