The Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) results for quarter 3 for the Black Country have been released. 36% of respondents said that UK sales had increased (the same as quarter 2). 25% of companies completing the survey said that their workforce had increased over the last 3 months and 30% said that their workforce would increase over the next 12 months (up 4% and 2% from last quarter). 6% more manufacturers and 14% more service sector respondents said that they had increased their recruitment. Unfortunately 12% more of businesses reported greater difficulties in recruiting.

However, the positive figures above mask some uncertainty for manufacturing companies. The proportion of manufacturing companies saying that their export sales and orders had increased has gone down 14% since quarter 2. Expectations that turnover and profitability will increase over the next 12 months have dropped 18% and 15% since the start of 2015.

Bhanu Dhir, Head of Policy at the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, said: “Skills remains a barrier to growth and exporting. Businesses cannot find the appropriately skilled people they need. Only yesterday I was talking to a precision engineering company who told me that they could double the size of their business if only they could find the right people.”

Nevertheless, 83% of manufacturing and 84% of service sector respondents expect prices to drop or to remain constant over the next 12 months.  

Only 21% of manufacturing companies and 34% or service sector companies are operating at full capacity.

Commenting on the survey results, Kevin Rogers Chief Executive of Paycare and Vice President of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce said: “We agree with the British Chambers of Commerce’s assessment that confidence remains fragile. Many of our manufacturers are metals based and the differences between input and output exchange rates (dollars and euros) is putting them under considerable pressure and eating into their profitability.

We have a mixed picture: the service sector appears to be performing well.

Many of our export markets are becoming problematic: China, Europe and Russia for example and encouraging businesses to find new markets takes time.”