More small businesses are set to hire staff this spring than over same period last year

Of the 1,231 decision-makers in SMEs that they questioned, 17 per cent said that they were looking to employ more staff over the next 12 weeks

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The Independent Online

Almost a fifth of small and medium-sized businesses say that they intend to hire more staff over the next three months, according to a new survey.

Financial services company Hitachi Capital said that of the 1,231 decision-makers in SMEs that they questioned, 17 per cent said that they were looking to employ more staff over the next 12 weeks, which marks a 4 percentage point increase on the number who said that they would ramp up hiring in an equivalent survey conducted last July.

Businesses most likely to be hiring before the end of April are based in London and the North West, the survey found, “underscoring the sectors’ importance for employment and training,” according to Hitachi Capital.

At the same time, however, and faced with electricity price rises, a hike in business rates and general economic uncertainty, businesses still appear to be conservative and risk averse when it comes to cash levels and costs.

A total of 39 per cent of respondents who said that they expect to see organic growth over the next three months, said that keeping costs down was their top priority.

Twenty-seven per cent of that group cited focusing on hiring new people as their top priority, and a quarter said that expanding into new markets was their top initiative.

SMEs fearing a business contraction in the next three months appeared to be even more cautious, with 42 per cent saying that their top priority was keeping their fixed costs down.

A total of 23 per cent said that their priority was expanding into new markets or overseas and 16 per cent said that their priority was reassessing finance commitments.

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