North East England achieved the fastest growth in business activity last month for the first time in almost four years, followed by the South East, Northern Ireland and London, according to the latest Lloyds Bank regional purchasing managers’ index.
Within Wales and England, job creation was strongest in the North West region, with the pace of employment growth reaching a survey-record high for the region. All 12 UK regions continued to record growth, with the overall average remaining around the same level as the previous month.
Robust demand from the construction sector, Greater investment spending and rising consumer confidence contributed to business activity growth, according to the survey. Lloyds suggested that the findings pointed to a strong overall rise in business activity, which extended the period of expansion to 19 months.
In the report it said that strong output growth was supported by greater inflows of new work. London maintained its place as the best performing region in England and Wales in terms of new business growth. Anecdotal evidence indicated that improving domestic economic conditions continued to underpin new contract wins.
Tim Hinton, Lloyds’ head of small and medium-sized enterprises, said: “Companies have been experiencing a sustained improvement in business conditions through the second quarter of the year. Greater investment spending, resilient consumer confidence and improving underlying economic conditions are all contributing to increased private sector activity.”
North East England has also enjoyed a bigger rise in disposable income per person than any other UK region, including London. The Office for National Statistics have said that gross disposable household income per person had risen 4 percent in the North East, more than the UK’s overall increase of 3.3 percent or London’s 3.4 percent.
The North East was closer to the UK average in 2012 than in any year since 2004. The breakdown shows a 2.7 percent rise in salaries and a 5.4 percent increase in social benefits such as pensions and tax credits, similar figures to the UK as a whole.
The North East is also closing the skills gap on the rest of the country, figures show. The North East has the highest proportion of 16 to 24 year olds in the country in the category; business leaders in the region have welcomed the progress being made in the region.
In addition, tourism is a part of the economy in the North East. Recently, regional leaders have hailed an article in one of the world’s top newspapers, which highlights the North East as the best place to visit in the UK. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley visited Durham, parts of Northumberland and Tyneside on her trip across the Atlantic for the New York Times.
The newspaper is one of America and the world’s best-read sources of news, with its website receiving more than 30 million visitors a month.
In a travel piece for the paper, Ms Smiley praised the North East, telling readers “four days of exploration and admiration was shading into love”.
Now bosses at the region’s tourism boards are hopeful that her glowing report will boost visitor numbers from the US as well as other international visitors.
Sarah Stewart, chief executive at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, added: “It’s great to read such positive coverage of the region in a publication like the New York Times, an influential newspaper with a wide global reach online. North East England remains a popular destination for both domestic and international visitors and this coverage really supports ongoing work to attract more profile, visitors and economic benefits for the region, putting it on the map for all the right reasons.”
The tourism industry supports more than 50,000 jobs in the North East and puts £2bn into the local economy each year.
In what ways might the summer improve economic activity and assist businesses across the UK?