Confidence returns to 2020 levels in Covid Lloyds business survey

Confidence among Yorkshire firms has soared to its highest level since February 2020, according to the latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Steve Harris, regional director for Yorkshire at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking

This means Yorkshire's economic prospects are looking better than at any time since the first pandemic lockdown was announced in March last year.

Confidence in the region surged by 20 points in April, rising to 32 per cent. Yorkshire firms also reported an uptick in confidence in their trading prospects, up 21 points to 29 per cent.

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When taken alongside their optimism in the economy, up 18 points to 34 per cent, this gives a headline confidence reading of 32 per cent.

The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends both regionally and nationwide.

Yorkshire firms are still committed to recruiting new staff, with 5 per cent expecting to make hires over the next 12 months, but this level is down three points on last month.

Overall UK business confidence surged 14 points in April to 29 per cent, the highest reading since September 2018.

The result follows the reopening of outdoor hospitality venues and non-essential retail and personal services providers in England and comes ahead of further restrictions easing in Wales and Scotland.

Steve Harris, regional director for Yorkshire at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “The hospitality sector sits at the heart of the Yorkshire economy, so businesses being able to welcome customers back, hopefully for good, for outdoor drinking and dining has provided the shot in the arm that the region needed after the latest lockdown.

“We expect to see confidence continue to strengthen as further restrictions are lifted over the coming weeks. We’ll remain by the side of businesses across Yorkshire as they navigate this critical time.”

Confidence increased in all business sectors in April, with manufacturing and retail confidence levels at three year highs.

Manufacturing stood out as the most positive sector (40 per cent), reflecting strong global demand despite ongoing supply chain issues. Retail confidence jumped to 39 per cent, while construction confidence also increased to 28 per cent. Services confidence rose to 25 per cent, which was also the highest it has been since 2018.

Hann-Ju Ho, senior economist at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “A third consecutive monthly rise in business confidence alongside the highest level of confidence for two and a half years tells us a positive story about the UK’s continued economic recovery and leaves us optimistic about the road ahead.

"While uncertainties remain regarding the evolution of the pandemic, this month’s improvement in sentiment reflects a further easing of Covid-19 restrictions, while progress in vaccine deployment is raising hopes that the negative impact of the health crisis will continue to fall in the months ahead as the economy reopens.”