August 2, 2019 @ 7:53 by Steven Hugill
North East businesses suffered a dip in confidence during July with Brexit remaining a worrying prospect, according to a new report.
The latest Lloyds Bank Business Barometer showed companies’ confidence fell seven points to seven per cent.
Furthermore, economic optimism in the region stood at four per cent, five points below the previous month, while firms’ outlook on their prospects reached only nine per cent, compared with 18 per cent in June.
Businesses’ hiring intentions showed a net balance of four per cent expecting to recruit more staff during the next year, which was down 15 points on last month.
Across the UK, overall confidence stood steady at 13 per cent as firms’ confidence in their own prospects slipped three points to 19 per cent, while their economic optimism remained at five per cent.
The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends at regional and national levels.
Kelly Green, regional director for the North East at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Across the region, a net balance of 12 per cent of businesses said they felt the UK’s exit from the European Union was having a negative impact on their expectations for business activity, down three points on a month ago.
“Despite the dip in confidence, firms that we speak to are still looking to ensure they’re able to capitalise on any new opportunities ahead.
“We’re by their side with advice on how to develop their growth plans and have committed up to £700 million in funding to North East firms this year alone to support key investments in their businesses.”
According to the study’s findings, businesses in the South West were the most confident at 29 per cent, followed by the East Midlands, with 26 per cent, and the West Midlands, with 19 per cent.
Firms in Scotland were the least confident, with an overall mark of zero per cent.
The report also showed manufacturing was the most upbeat sector, with overall confidence rising nine points to 19 per cent.
It overtook retail, which fell five points to 17 per cent.
Overall confidence among services businesses was unchanged at 12 per cent, but construction dropped 11 points to six per cent, the sector’s lowest reading in more than 18 months.