Lancashire businesses face a battle to grow in 2013

Economic growth may be just as elusive in 2013 as it has been in 2012, according to the latest figures from the Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey, produced in association with Moore & Smalley.

Results from the first Quarter of 2013 reveal that the main key economic indicators in the survey have seen little change, with most firms reporting sales at home and abroad remaining constant over the last three months. Other measures such as business confidence, investment intentions and cashflow have also seen no significant weakening, although in some cases are below their level of a year ago.

This Quarter, manufacturing has again outperformed the service sector and further underlines the importance of manufacturing to the Lancashire economy. The service sector results suggest that consumer confidence in the region remains fragile, as households continue to be squeezed by pay freezes and the rising cost of living. However, service sector firms have seen an improvement in their order books for the three months ahead which will give some encouragement going into the second Quarter.

Fewer firms attempted to recruit staff in the first three months of this year, although on balance employment levels have remained stable since the previous Quarter. Cautiously, this looks set to continue in Q2.

Commenting on the results Babs Murphy, Chief Executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber said: “Growth in the Lancashire economy continues to be very weak, but the positive news is that things do not appear to be getting worse. A period of economic stability is welcome amidst talk of a triple-dip recession and more problems in Europe.

“Although we welcome the recent measures to help businesses announced by the Chancellor in his recent Budget, it will be some time before any of them filter through. Businesses need the Government to act with greater urgency, scale and delivery to boost growth in our economy.”

Stephen Gregson, corporate finance director at Moore and Smalley, said: “I echo Babs’ view. However we must take great care not to underestimate the importance, or value, of a period of stability. Yes, it is stability at a level which many might say is too low. Yes, there are several indications that it may be a little fragile. But it is stability nonetheless. Whilst only time will tell if this marks a turning point for the regional economy, it is also true to say that any future turning point will probably be preceded by such a period of stability.”