Economic conditions in Lancashire were “worryingly subdued” in the final quarter of 2018.
Those were the findings of the latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) from the Chambers of Commerce, with a number of key indicators continuing to weaken under the weight of persistent Brexit uncertainty and rising cost pressures.
The Q4 2018 survey, compiled by the county’s three Chambers of Commerce in association with MHA Moore and Smalley Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors, reveals a significant slow-down in domestic sales and orders for the service sector, which is the main driver of the economy and makes up two-thirds of responses to the survey.
The slow-down in sales has also affected business confidence in the sector, with expectations that turnover and profitability will improve in the coming year taking a backward step.
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The downturn in business confidence is also reflected in a weakening employment picture for both manufacturing and services firms. Despite this, more than half of the firms in the survey attempted to recruit during the last three months of the year with 74per cent of manufacturers reporting difficulty recruiting skilled manual workers.
Alan Welsh, Policy Manager at the North & Western Lancashire Chamber said: “In this new year, the government must demonstrate that it is ready to act to turbo-charge business confidence.
“With little clarity on the trading conditions they’ll face in just two months’ time, companies are understandably holding back on spending and making big decisions.”
Stephen Gregson, Corporate Finance Director at MHA Moore and Smalley said: “This latest set of results indicate a marked weakening in performance and sentiment on the prior quarter and 12 months ago.”
He said the biggest factor in the weak figures was probably Brexit.