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Business activity growth slows across England and Wales in March

Staff Writer |
Business activity grew at a slower rate across England and Wales in March as unusually bad weather during the month caused widespread disruption, according to latest PMI data from IHS Markit.

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Output growth in England eased to a 20-month low in March.

This marked the worst performance for the private sector since July 2016, when activity dipped in the aftermath of the EU referendum.

However, the only region to see an overall contraction was the North East, where the PMI Business Activity Index dropped below the crucial 50.0 mark to 48.5.

A PMI reading above 50.0 indicates expansion in business activity, and the further above the 50.0 level the faster the rate of expansion signalled.

The East Midlands led business activity growth for the third straight month in March; although a PMI reading of 55.2 was its lowest since last October.

The South West (54.3) was the second-best performing English region during the month, and the only one to see a faster increase in business activity than in February.

Wales meanwhile saw its slowest rise in private sector output since August 2017.

With a PMI reading of 55.0, the home nation nevertheless recorded stronger growth than the English regional average for the seventh month in a row.

On the job front, March’s survey data showed a broad-based increase in employment by region, led by the East and West Midlands.

That said, rates of job creation across England generally slowed from the month before.

In Wales, the rate of workforce growth was unchanged from the moderate pace seen in February, but below the average for 2017.

Inflationary pressures meanwhile remained elevated at the end of the opening quarter.

The driving factor behind this was sustained strong growth in firms’ input costs – linked to higher raw material costs, supply chain disruption and rising staff pay – which resulted in another marked monthly increase in average prices charged for goods and services.

Finally, latest data showed a general decrease in business confidence across England and Wales in regard to the outlook for activity over the next 12 months.

The highest degree of optimism was recorded in Yorkshire & Humber, which was one of only three regions where business sentiment improved, while firms in the North East showed the lowest level of confidence.


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