High street banking giant, Natwest, has reported a sharp increase in business activity in April in its latest North West Business Activity Index.
The bank attributed the acceleration in the region’s economy to the April 12th easing of lockdown restrictions, which saw the reopening of all retail since January, and the reopening of outdoor hospitality which had been closed since Autumn 2020 in much of the region. The monthly index rose from 56.5 in March to 59.7 in April, putting business activity at its highest level since December 2017, and with a rate of month-on-month growth at the second fastest level since the index started in 1997, nearly 25 years ago.
The increase in business activity comes following last month’s data showed businesses in the region were increasingly optimistic for the economy in next 12 months. Natwest’s data also showed increased hiring intentions at North-west businesses, across both services and the manufacturing sector, which recorded the strongest rate of job growth.
Richard Topliss, chairman of NatWest North Regional Board, said:
The latest PMI survey showed activity across the North West private sector on a steep upward trajectory as the economy steadily reopens from the Covid-19 lockdown measures.
“Growth of this speed has rarely been seen in the survey history, and while it’s important to remember that we’ve come from a position of very depressed levels of activity, the pace of the recovery is certainly encouraging and evidence of a great deal of pent up demand.
“It’s also pleasing to see firms hiring at an increased rate, which tallies with expectations of a strong and lasting recovery over the next 12 months.
“At the same time, however, the survey points to growing pressure on businesses from rising costs. Some of the issues behind this strong cost pressure, such shortages of materials and freight containers, could be with us for some time even as domestic restrictions are further loosened as we move into the summer.”