Optimism grew in all UK regions for a second consecutive month after roadmap for ending lockdown restrictions was laid out, bringing business confidence to its highest level since February 2020, according to a new report.
And business confidence in the South West rose 14 points during March to eight percent, the highest reading since March 2020, according to the latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.
Companies in the region reported higher confidence in their own business prospects month-on-month, up ten points at minus one percent.
When taken alongside their optimism in the economy, up 20 points to 17 percent, this gives a headline confidence reading of eight percent.
The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends both regionally and nationwide.
When it comes to jobs, at net balance of eight percent of firms in the region expect to reduce staff levels in the coming year, although this is down five points on last month.
Overall, UK business confidence rose for a second consecutive month in March.
Firms’ confidence increased by 13 points to 15 percent, the highest reading since February 2020, before coronavirus was confirmed as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
UK firms’ economic optimism also increased by 15 points to 17 percent, while confidence in their own business prospects jumped 10 points to 12 percent.
David Beaumont (pictured) regional director for the South West at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “The fact that business confidence in the South West has returned to pre-pandemic levels is extremely reassuring.
“The South West’s world-renowned tourism and hospitality sectors have weathered a particularly difficult year, so they will have been buoyed by the element of certainty provided by the roadmap out of lockdown. and.
“With the prospect of a busy staycation summer ahead, we remain by the side of businesses in the South West as they continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic.”
In the sectors, manufacturing and retail recorded the highest confidence levels, both at 25 percent, while services and construction rose to 11 percent and 12 percent respectively
Hann-Ju Ho, senior economist at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “It’s been a year since the first lockdown and the surge in confidence this month tells us firms are increasingly confident about economic recovery.
“The broadly positive outlook is driven by steady vaccine deployment, the roadmap out of lockdown and the extension of government support measures.
"It will be interesting to see whether the momentum for stronger business optimism is sustained in the months ahead.”