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Businesses in Lancashire have reasons for optimism coupled with downward turns in exports and recruitment, according to the latest county statistics.

Data from Q1 of the Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) show no overall improvement in business conditions but slight growth in UK sales and green shoots of recovery for parts of the manufacturing sector in Lancashire.

However, stagnant export sales and ongoing issues with the labour market in the county mean business confidence remains unchanged, with only just over a half of businesses expecting an increase in turnover throughout 2024.

The latest results were published at the Lancashire Economic Breakfast, hosted by the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce at St Catherine’s Hospice in Lostock Hall.

Almost half of those surveyed expect the price of their goods or services to rise, though inflationary costs have declined on the last quarter and labour and materials continue to be the biggest pressure for businesses.

Lack of investment remains a concern for the majority of SMEs, along with skills shortages and trade barriers with the EU continuing a lack of growth for exporters.

The QES is the largest UK private sector survey of businesses and a leading indicator of GDP growth which is watched by government policymakers, including HM Treasury and the Bank of England.

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the Chamber, said: “These results are a mixed bag for businesses in Lancashire, on the one hand we see a growth in the manufacturing sector but a decline in services, which shows the challenges which bosses are facing.

“With recruitment still causing a headache and inflationary pressures not going away, businesses are having to make tricky decisions and they clearly need room to breathe, which the recent Budget failed to provide.

“It is important the government remains committed to helping businesses invest and grow, but more important to provide clarity in these increasingly uncertain times for the economy.”

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