Sharp slowdown evidenced in Humber economic survey

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 2 Apr 2019

A sharp slowdown in activity has been reported in the Humber for the first quarter of 2019, reflecting the national picture as Britain holds its breath for Brexit, while adjusting from the pre-Christmas uplift.

The Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce’s economic survey showed most of the key sectors were in decline and in a less favourable position than in the last quarter of 2018.

Domestic sales and orders were both down, the balance figure for the former 24 points, and sales down eight points on the same period.

Export sales also took a big hit, dropping a further 11 points this quarter, however, export orders held their own with a balance figure of 10, the same as for the last quarter.

Chamber chief executive, Dr Ian Kelly, said: “We can’t be too surprised to see the Humber economy being affected by the political uncertainty we are seeing nationally.

“It is now time for our politicians to deliver on their referendum and manifesto commitments on Brexit so we can put the issue behind us and move on.”

Read more: Siemens boss: UK becoming 'a laughing stock' amid Brexit turmoil

The quarterly barometer also showed how the number of firms recruiting staff also dropped markedly, down 30 points compared to the last set of figures, however expected employment for the next three months looked a bit brighter, with 10 per cent more firms saying they were planning to look for new staff.

Of the 56 per cent of firms who did try to recruit new staff in the last six months, the majority were for full-time permanent jobs, while part-time or temporary roles were in less demand.

The number of management positions being filled, and clerical vacancies were both down, while there was a slight increase in skilled manual jobs.

The balance figure for cash flow in the last three months was also down, dropping 13 points on the last quarter,

By contrast, businesses planning to invest in new plant and machinery in the next six months saw a slight increase of three per cent.

Read more: No-deal Brexit could see Humber Bridge car park used as lorry stacking site

More businesses also expected to see an increase in turnover in the next 12 months, with the balance figure rising 23 points to 52.

Profit expectations were similarly in positive territory, up by 30 points to a balance figure of 40, which is still some way behind the 50 point figure of Q3 2018, and more firms expected to see their prices increase in the coming months, up 8 points to a balance figure of 50.

The number of firms claiming to be working to full capacity fell further this quarter, down a further three points to 26.

The key external concerns this quarter were exchange rates and increasing competition, while interest rates and tax issues were less concerning. Raw material costs were also less of an issue.

The main pressures on prices were pay settlements, finance and other overheads, while interest rates and inflation were less of a worry for businesses this quarter.

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