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Quarterly Economic Survey - Q3 2014

Firms still focus on recruitment through quieter summer period.

BUSINESS activity has eased during the summer holiday period, but the latest research from the Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce reveals many firms have still been recruiting staff.

Businesses expecting their workforce to increase has followed an upward trend for the last two quarters, and the third quarter has shown another rise in the number of firms which have taken on more staff, with a balance figure of 23, up six points.

Finding the right calibre of staff for senior positions remains an issue for 49% of firms who are reporting problems filling management and skilled manual roles,

On a similar theme, more firms expect their workforce to remain constant in the next three months, with fewer companies expecting to see a decrease.

Home Sales, Home Orders and Export Sales and Orders are all still positive but slowing somewhat in growth levels.

The cashflow balance figure also improved slightly, up three points to eight, suggesting that more firms are achieving a degree of stable improvement in their businesses.

However, plant and machinery investment fell back by nine points from the second quarter’s figure, returning to the same balance figure of 21 that we saw in the first quarter of the year, but there is still broad consistency in this sector, with the number of firms reporting a steady level of investment, only slightly down on the last quarter.

Levels of investment in training noted with a slight four point drop in the balance figure, falling back to 20 points, but this is still two points ahead of the 18 point figure from the first quarter.

Overall, the outlook seems to be a continuing but slowing improvement for many businesses, with a four-point rise in profit expectations for the next year, building on the big jump of 20 points from the first quarter to the second quarter.

There has been a drop in the number of firms which expect their prices to increase in the next three months, showing a softening of demand in the market place.

Unfortunately the high pound has affected exports but this comes after strong positive growth with 53% of firms still seeing export sales remaining constant.

Inflation was again the biggest external concern flagged up by firms. Exchange rates were also more of a concern than in the last quarter, but business rate and tax issues were proving less of a worry for respondents.

Competition worries also dropped back markedly from the last quarter’s result, but were still ahead of the figure for the first quarter.

The number of firms which report that they are working at full capacity has remained fairly constant over the last year or so, with 35% of respondents claiming to be fully committed, with 65% claiming they have capacity for more work within their businesses.

The Chamber’s Chief Executive, Dr Ian Kelly, says:

“These remain reasonably good figures, but not as good as in recent quarters. It therefore remains important for the Government to continue nurturing growth and for the Bank of England not to increase interest rates any time soon”.



Q3 2014 - Key QES results from Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce

Sales and orders:

  • 32% of companies reported an increase in domestic sales, 11% down on the last quarter.
  • 14% reported a decrease, up 9%.
  • 29% increased their domestic orders, down 42 points. 13% reported a decrease.
  • 32% increased their export sales. 16% reported a decrease, a 13% rise on Q2.
  • 33% increased their export orders. 22% reported a decrease.

For the next 3 months:

  • 40% of companies expect to increase their workforce, down 1%. 4% expect to decrease it, down 3%.
  • 18% of companies expect to increase their prices, down 14% on the last quarter. 2% expect to decrease them, down 3%.

In the last 3 months:

  • The proportion of businesses which recruited was 79%, an increase of 34% on Q2.
  • 23% reported an increase in cashflow, a decrease of 11%, and 15% a decrease, down 14%.
  • 34% increased their investment plans for plant & machinery, down 3%. 26% of respondents increased their investment plans for training, down 8%.

For the next 12 months:

  • 69% expect to increase their turnover, down 2%; 12% expect it to decrease, down 5% on the last quarter.
  • 63% expect their profitability to improve, up 4%, 12% think it will worsen, the same figure as the last quarter.

Pressures:

  • The cost of overheads was again the top pressure on prices (34%), followed by raw material costs (30%), pay settlements (26%), and finance (16%).
  • Inflation (44%), competition (22%), business rates (12%) and tax (18%) top businesses’ list of external concerns.



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