Business confidence in the South West of England rose 21 points last month to 29 percent, making it the most confident region in the UK, according to the latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.
Companies in the region reported higher confidence in their business prospects, which rose 25 points to 42 percent, and higher economic optimism, up 15 points to 16 percent. Together, this gives an overall confidence reading of 29 per ent.
Businesses’ hiring intentions also got a boost, with a net balance of 24 percent of businesses in the region reporting they expect to hire more staff during the next year, up 18 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 percent, while their economic optimism remained at five percent.
The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends both regionally and nationwide.
Adam Rainey regional director for the South West at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “It is encouraging to see such a boost to confidence in the South West after a subdued couple of months.
“Businesses clearly feel bullish at the moment and are planning for growth by looking to create new jobs. Having said that, it is likely too early to think the region’s challenges have all been met.
“Whatever lies ahead, we will remain by the side of South West firms and we have committed to lending £1.2 billion to local companies in 2019 to help them do just that.”
Across the region, a net balance of eight per cent of businesses said they felt that the UK’s exit from the European Union was having a negative impact on their expectations for business activity, down 16 points on a month ago.
Nationally, manufacturing was the most upbeat sector, with overall confidence rising nine points to 19 percent and overtaking retail, which fell five points to 17 percent.
Overall confidence among services businesses was unchanged at 12 percent, but construction dropped 11 points to six, the sector’s lowest reading in more than 18 months.