Lancashire manufacturers enjoy Q4 resurgence

Manufacturing firms in Lancashire have seen an upturn in business in the final quarter of 2012, according to the latest figures from the Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey, produced in association with Moore & Smalley Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors.

75% of manufacturing firms responding said that domestic sales had either increased or remained the same in Q4, an increase of 9% on Quarter Three. The survey also found that the sector had seen growth in exports despite the challenges of uncertainty in the Euro Zone, an easing of growth in emerging markets and worries over a possible US ‘fiscal cliff’.

There was also positive news on the employment front. 35% of manufacturers reported that their workforce had increased in the final quarter of 2012, up 7% on Q3. Intentions to recruit moving into the New Year are also good, with 34% of firms expecting their workforce to increase in the next three months, up 13% on the previous quarter.

The service sector has also shown some resilience after a weak Quarter Three with increases in domestic demand, although this does not look sufficiently strong enough to boost service sector employment prospects in the next three months.

Commenting on the results Babs Murphy, Chief Executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber said: “It is pleasing to see that the Lancashire economy has recovered from a setback in the third quarter and finished the year on a relatively positive note.

“We are making steady progress with the recovery, but as it is weak growth the experience of each sector and area of the county does vary. The government must build on measures announced in the Autumn Statement and deliver a strategy that combines deficit reduction with a realistic long-term growth plan, including immediate measures to support business confidence.

“Recent steps to improve access to finance, such as the commitment to create a business bank, must be implemented at scale and with clear timetables. More forceful measures are also needed to unlock massive private funding to renew Britain’s infrastructure that will create confidence in the short-term, jobs in the medium-term and growth in the long-term. But this will only work once we free up the planning system at national and local levels, and defeat the culture of NIMBYism that prevents many business projects getting off the ground.”

Stephen Gregson, corporate finance director at Moore and Smalley Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors, said: “With a full year of data to look at, it has been interesting to see that changing sentiment in both the manufacturing and service sectors.

“Manufacturing, this time, does seem to have enjoyed a significant improvement in outlook and performance, a marked contrast to the picture painted by Q3. While it’s still too early to talk of trends, I think a case can be made that this survey provides further evidence that the regional economy is generally stable, with a greater possibility for future upside. However, it remains unclear just when such upside may manifest itself strongly.”