Lancashire business chiefs have called on the government to support enterprise as the UK aims to build on its recovery in 2014.
GDP quarterly growth was 0.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2013, unrevised from the previous estimate.
But the deficit in net UK trade more than doubled between Q2 and Q3 2013, as exports fell three per cent while imports rose 0.7 per cent .
Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire chamber of commerce, said: “These figures are a mixed bag, but confirm that a broad-based recovery is underway.
“But concerns still remain. The new current account figure shows a sharp deterioration to a deficit of 5.1 per cent of GDP, and a fall in the investment balance and a wider trade deficit should not be taken lightly.”
Latest figures also show retail sales volumes rose 0.3 per cent in November, but were flat over the past three months.
Ms Murphy added: “The figures are a stark reminder that the recovery is not yet secure, despite the growing optimism around the economy. The government must continue with its efforts to create an environment that supports enterprise that can create wealth and jobs, to maintain the progress of the UK recovery.”
Jonathan Addis, of retail destination The Courtyard at Tarleton said: “The Lancashire retail sector has taken a real hammering over the last five years at the expense of online retail business. But in the same period we’ve built two new successful retail business - most recently last year’s opening of The Courtyard at Tarleton - without selling anything online.
“That’s why we’re optimistic about retail in the county in 2014. But we predict that success will only come for those retailers who get serious about personalised service. I think the big chains will suffer if they don’t get their online offer right. But for smaller local retailers it will be all about personal service.
“While we don’t sell online, we do enjoy enthusiastic community of engaged customers in social media networks. This is having a significant positive impact on the business. It demonstrates just what a difference the personal approach will have in 2014 and beyond.”
Lee Petts, boss of Preston-based Remsol, said: “We’re expecting good things in 2014, with significant new contracts already in the pipeline in the chemicals and personal care sectors and a new head of sales development joining us in the first quarter.”
A supporter of regulated shale gas exploration in Lancashire, he said: “We expect to see Cuadrilla and other operators bringing forward plans to drill, hydraulically fracture and flow test further exploration wells in the Bowland basin as they seek to assess how much gas is in place and how much can be commercially extracted.
“According to industry body, the UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG), we could see as many as 40 exploratory wells drilled in the next 18-24 months across Britain.
“Alongside this, it’s likely we’ll see further research conducted to try and answer the question of how many and what types of jobs might a shale gas industry be responsible for in Lancashire.”
John Cridland, director general of the CBI, said recovery was taking root and businessmen and women had a “spring in their step” compared with a year ago, but added: “Firms face a challenge to make sure economic growth this year improves workers’ pay after a “prolonged squeeze,” he said.
In his new year message, he said: “Businesses must support employees in every part of the country to move up the career ladder, while also giving a helping hand to young people taking their first tentative steps into the world of work.
“As the financial situation of many firms begins to turn a corner, one of the biggest challenges facing businesses is to deliver growth that will mean better pay and more opportunities for all their employees after a prolonged squeeze.”
Mr Cridland said it was positive news that jobs were being created, adding it was shaping up to be a full-time recovery with the majority of new jobs being permanent.
“The good news is that wages will pick up in the year ahead as growth beds down and productivity improves.
“But there are still far too many people stuck in minimum wage jobs without routes to progression, and that’s a serious challenge that businesses and the Governmen