The St Helens Quarterly Economic Survey for the final quarter of 2018 saw a very welcome rebound for St Helens businesses, with sales and advance orders improving for both manufacturers and service firms.
Whether it is the effect of a weak pound, or the resilience of our local businesses, both UK and Export sales for both sectors have risen and as a result, so has employment. Manufacturers in particular, expect an increase in employment in the early part of 2019 with 25% of respondents saying they plan to grow their headcount.
This recruitment growth is not however without its problems. 73% of manufacturing firms who attempted to recruit had difficulties finding skilled manual and technical staff, with 66% of services firms also struggling to fill that category of recruitment, and 32% reporting difficulty filling professional/managerial vacancies.
- Advance orders for manufacturers have moved strongly back into positive figures, with a +29% balance change. At the end of Q3 manufacturers reported a significant negative for advance orders, so this position has substantially improved.
- 29% of manufacturers are now operating at full capacity, very similar to Q2 2018.
- 25% of manufacturers expect to increase investment in plant and machinery in the next three months, another welcome increase from the +10% in Q3.
- +58% of manufacturers are confident turnover will increase in the next 12 months, a very significant increase from +15% in Q3.
Looking ahead, 42% of manufacturers are confident that profitability will increase in the next 12 months, a very significant increase from the outlook in Q3.
Tracy Mawson, Deputy Chief Executive at St Helens Chamber, commented: “We are delighted to see a stronger quarter for St Helens firms, after worrying trends in Q3. Confidence around turnover, profitability, and recruitment plans has increased, and this is great news for the Borough’s economy.
“Cost pressures and recruitment requirements may act as a brake, but we look to support firms with their growth as much as possible, including training staff to drive up productivity.
“2019 will be an eventful year and nationally the results are mixed. In the New Year the government must demonstrate that it is ready to deliver on business issues including recruitment of a suitable workforce.”
Main photo – Deputy chief executive of St Helens Chamber, Tracy Mawson