Business activity rises in England and Wales
However, the survey also showed the biggest rise in average prices charged for goods and services in nearly six years as well as a slowdown in employment growth, both linked to strong cost pressures.
The Lloyds Bank Regional PMI is the leading economic health-check of regions across England and Wales, based on businesses in the manufacturing and service sectors.
A reading greater than 50 signifies growth in business activity, while a reading below 50 signifies a contraction in business activity.
The greater the divergence from the 50 mark, the faster the rate of change.
England’s Business Activity PMI ticked up to 55.7 in March, improving from February’s fivemonth low of 54.4 and indicating a strong and accelerated rise in output.
However, the PMI for Wales dipped to 53.6, down from 56.4 and its lowest reading for eight months.
In both cases, the average growth seen over the first quarter of 2017 was slightly lower than in the final quarter of 2016.
Regional business activity growth was led by the East of England (58.0), ahead of the North West (57.5) and Yorkshire & Humber (57.2).
Last month’s weakest performer, London, also rebounded in March, seeing its fastest rise in business activity for over a year (56.4).
The North East (50.1) saw virtually no change in output and was at the bottom of the regional rankings (see overleaf).
Despite the pick-up in business activity growth and rising order books, March saw a slower rate of job creation across both England and Wales. ■