Recession-hit firms urged not to lose faith

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WIGAN firms have been told not to be downbeat after the area’s first major business pool of the year yielded a mixed bag of results.

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Survey for the first three months of 2013 shows slightly weaker demand acros the service sector and a disappointing contraction for manufacturing in the domestic market.

The QES found that confidence in the construction industry had fallen, reflecting the challenging conditions facing the sector.

Meanwhile, manufacturers and service sector businesses saw relatively stable levels of confidence and investment levels are steady, though they remain somewhat subdued by historical measures.

However, Greater Manchester continues to perform better than many other parts of the UK and the Chamber believes talk of a triple-dip recession is wrong as the figures have remained broadly flat.

Dr Brian Sloan, chief economist at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “We mustn’t be downbeat; overall Greater Manchester is experiencing slightly better conditions than the national average, but it still lags behind areas such as London.

“One key indicator is employment, which remains positive and house prices also saw a slight rise in recent months.

“Taking the macro-level view of weak or low growth doesn’t highlight the great positive stories that do exist despite the challenges of the current economic situation.

“I see digital and creative businesses that are exporting their products and services well, manufacturing businesses are also doing well in some sub-sectors, but are challenged in others.

“In the construction sector there has been a pick-up in orders, but competition is tough and getting work requires much more time and effort for businesses that have been hit very hard.

“With the economy still not firing into life, many businesses were left a little disappointed by the decisions taken by the Chancellor in last month’s Budget. Whilst some small steps were taken in the right direction around lower taxation levels, some obvious and much demanded actions were not taken forward.

“With business rates going up by 2.6 per cent this month, scrapping this would have been the sort of decisive action that would have sent a hugely positive message out to business, as well as offering real financial help.

“We will be monitoring the impact of the Chancellor’s inaction on this and other issues through the next few months and our next QES, which opens next month.”

The QES shows that volatility is a major challenge for businesses, as is the inflationary impact of currency movements.

The survey was completed by 846 businesses from across Greater Manchester, including 234 manufacturers and 612 from the service sector.