Survey: Suffolk manufacturing businesses report weakening performance, service sector doing better
Manufacturing businesses across Suffolk are reporting the second quarter-on-quarter decline in most economic indices - suggesting that the immediate post-Brexit boost might be tailing off for the sector.
The latest figures from Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) for the second three months of 2018 are based on responses from 143 Suffolk-based organisations, with 37 from the manufacturing sector and 106 involved in services.
For most measures in spite of these further declines, manufacturing businesses remain in positive territory - meaning that more firms were reporting positive responses than negative ones – with the exception of cashflow where there was a negative balance of – 14%.
However, Suffolk manufacturing businesses are now under-performing against the rest of the East of England as a whole across virtually all of the criteria covered by the QES.
The key headlines from the survey are:
The balance of manufacturing firms reporting an increase in domestic sales fell from +33% to +17%, and rose from +27% to +32% for those in services
The balance of manufacturing firms reporting an increase in domestic orders fell from +31% to +14%, and rose from +13% to +18% for those in services
The balance of manufacturing firms reporting an increase in overseas sales fell from +22% to +17%, and rose from +15% to +19% for those in services
The balance of manufacturing firms reporting an increase in overseas orders fell from +18% to 0%, and fell from +7% to +2% for those in services
The balance of manufacturing firms reporting an increase in employment fell from +15% to +11%, and rose from +12% to +25% for those in services
The balance of manufacturing firms anticipating a future increase in employment fell from +30% to +25%, and rose from +25% to +28% for those in services
The balance of manufacturing firms experiencing difficulties in finding staff fell from +81% to +70%, with those in services increasing slightly from +60% to +64%
The balance of manufacturing firms reporting positive cashflow fell from +12% to -14%, with those in services remaining static at +8%
The balance of manufacturing firms projecting an increase in turnover fell from +56% to +38%, with those in services increasing from +45% to +49%
Paul Simon, Suffolk Chamber’s communications and marketing manager, said “the Suffolk figures suggest a further readjustment from the highs reached in the last quarter of 2017, especially for manufacturing.
“Suffolk manufacturers seem to be ahead of the curve and are showing a greater rate of sentiment decline than those from neighbouring counties.
“They appear to be suffering from both less positive news on sales and orders on the one hand and continued difficulties in recruiting staff on the other.
“These results will strengthen our resolve to work through the British Chambers of Commerce to fix the business fundamentals including a reduction in up-front business costs, reforms to the Apprenticeship Levy and increased infrastructure spending to help sustain the growth plans of businesses, but especially those in the manufacturing sector.”
Suffolk Chamber is grateful to Suffolk Knowledge, part of Suffolk County Council, for providing the analysis of the QES.