North East companies taking part in the region’s largest business survey have returned the most positive set of results in over a decade.
The North East Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Survey (QES), produced in partnership with Barclays, reveals scores for domestic sales and workforce across the private sector are at their highest levels since the NECC was formed in 1995.
Having charted slow but steady growth across most indicators throughout 2013, the Quarter 4 QES, in fact, has returned the best set of results generally since 2003.
It also shows confidence levels in future performance ranking alongside the highest scores seen in the survey’s history, with significant growth in staff recruitment.
Published today, the QES is designed to reflect the health and direction of the North East economy, measured across 11 separate indicators. In all areas, scores are well into positive territory and significantly better than a year ago.
Notable successes, however, have been recorded among firms affiliated to oil and gas supply chains and in business services. The leisure sector has also picked up significantly in the last quarter, and growth is continuing in the manufacturing and service sectors.
NECC director of policy, Ross Smith, said: “We have ended the year on a real high. Three years of stuttering growth and then the solid, steady progress we have monitored throughout the year has been eclipsed in the final quarter, which is a positive indicator for 2014.
“The North East is fighting back and our businesses are leading the recovery.”
He added that for the past two years, NECC had been calling on the Government to empower the North East to deliver more for UK Plc, and that these figures proved the region was capable of much more.
“The economic conditions have been far from ideal, yet we have seen the region close the gap on the rest of the UK in our output,” he said.
“Next year we must lobby the Government to match the ambitions of our businesses and continue to grow our economy.”
Smith acknowledged the survey represented the pace of improvement, not absolute performance, and could not be taken to reflect the regional economy as a whole.
However, it was “another significant shot in the arm for the region’s business community”.
Among the NECC members celebrating a strong year was County Durham’s Esh group, one of the leading construction companies in the North of England, with a turnover of £174m and a workforce of over 1,000.
Chief executive Brian Manning said: “Turnover and margin across our diverse construction activities has improved as the year moved on with the final quarter ending in a flourish. This has ensured a Christmas bonus for our staff and an improved dividend in the New Year for our shareholders many of whom are employees. As a regional business this money will no doubt find its way into the local economies of the North East, Cumbria and Yorkshire where we work.”
Brian Foreman, head of the Barclays North East Mid-Corporate Banking Team, said the results were “perhaps slightly surprising” but boded well for 2014.
He added that export markets may grow further as other economies recover.