Manufacturers saw orders rise in most UK regions over the past three months, helping to slow the pace of industrial job losses.
The latest quarterly Regional Trends Survey, published today by the CBI and Experian, suggests that 17,000 jobs will be lost over the current quarter which compares with 25,000 in each quarter of 2003.
Amid a generally buoyant picture of strengthening order books, three regions in the north of England: the North East, Yorkshire & the Humber and the North West, stand out. They all report a substantial upturn in orders, both total and export. Business optimism in these regions, along with Wales, has improved by more than at any time in the last decade, and by more than in the rest of the UK.
By contrast, business optimism remains depressed in the West and the East Midlands, two regions that have failed to benefit significantly from the improving global background of the past six months. Export orders also remain subdued in the South East & London, Northern Ireland and East of England. As a result, sentiment has slipped back in these regions.
Firms predict that conditions would improve further over the next three months in many regions, led by the North East, the East Midlands and Wales. Furthermore, UK-wide export optimism has improved by more than at any time since 1995, with the recovery in sentiment very strong in seven regions led by Wales, the South West and the North West.
In the West Midlands however, expectations are still gloomy. The region expects the fall in employment to gather pace over the coming months. The South East & London, is expected to see the sharpest fall in percentage as well as absolute terms for the second survey in a row.
Peter Gutmann of Experian, said: “Prospects for UK manufacturing are undoubtedly improving, but the upturn is patchy and the regional picture is mixed. The current survey strongly reinforces the impression from the previous one. The three north of England regions, characterised by traditional industries such as engineering, textiles and chemicals, appear to be benefitting more from the global upswing than regions in the south with higher exposure to electronics.”
Doug Godden, CBI Head of Economic Analysis, said: “It is welcome news that total orders and output have improved for manufacturers in the majority of UK regions in the last few months. The improvement has slowed the rate of job losses which have crippled the sector over the past year. However, some job shedding will continue. Competitive pressures have intensified in overseas markets, with relative prices increasing as a constraint on exports nearly everywhere despite export price reductions in the majority of regions.”