THE REGIONAL economy showed a minor improvement in the last three months of 2012 but growth remains weak, according to the results of the region’s biggest regular independent business survey.
The Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey, for the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2012, reveals that although business confidence is down on where it was in Q3, it still remains - Q3 apart - at its highest level since June 2008.
Some 63per cent of Derbyshire firms believe their turnover will increase in the first three months of 2013, whilst 57per cent believe their profitability will increase.
It comes on the back of positive sales performances in both the UK and export markets, following a net 13per cent improvement in UK sales and a net 8per cent improvement in export sales.
However, while UK orders for Q1 2013 hold up well, firms – particularly in the service sector – have reported a slight drop in export orders.
These stronger sales figures have seen the Chamber’s State of the Economy Index – which tracks local business performance across a range of economic indicators – increase by 11 points on Q3 2012.
Interestingly, when the same variables are calculated for the local construction sector, it shows a massive 230-point improvement, from 21 in Q3 to 251 in Q4.
This comes on the back of the start of a number of local transport infrastructure schemes, Government announcements to free up stalled house-building schemes and businesses having more confidence to invest and expand.
Employment levels fell back slightly in Q4 and there was also a slight drop in the number of businesses recruiting, but 18% of Derbyshire firms still expect to increase the size of their workforce in Q1 2013.
And 28per cent of firms are under pressure to increase their prices in the first three months of the year.
Reflecting on the results of the survey, DNCC President Ian Greenaway said: “The local economy closed off 2012 on a positive note, with strong UK sales and orders and a welcome upturn for companies in the construction sector.
“There are signs, however, that the first quarter of 2013 will not be as strong, with confidence levels falling back, less optimism about future employment and lower export orders.
“Although the survey shows that the local economy is still making progress, it’s also clear that the pace of economic growth remains weak and nurturing it must be Government’s top priority.
“Ministers must build on the measures announced in the Autumn Statement and the recommendations made by Lord Heseltine to deliver a long-term strategy that combines deficit reduction with business growth, including immediate measures to support business confidence, cut red tape and make it easier for firms to create jobs, invest and expand.”