Recovery uneven, says CBI: Survey finds wide regional variations in confidence

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FURTHER evidence of the patchy and uneven nature of the recovery is contained in the Confederation of British Industry's latest regional trends survey.

According to the CBI, manufacturers in most areas of the country are more optimistic than in the summer and expect orders to rise in the next four months.

However, the CBI reports wide regional variations caused by differences in demand. The survey also says that export orders have declined in all regions except Scotland and Wales.

The CBI survey, produced jointly with the economic consultants Business Strategies, shows that although business optimism has risen in most regions, the increase is substantial in only four of the UK's 11 regions.

Sharp rises in orders are reported, meanwhile, by firms in the West Midlands and Scotland, while the South-west and Northern Ireland record marked falls.

Although all regions except Northern Ireland, Yorkshire and Humberside expect output to grow in the next four months, the CBI estimates that manufacturing employment is still declining in all but three regions.

Those regions reporting large declines in export orders blame political and economic uncertainties in overseas markets and price constraints.

The detailed breakdown shows:

The North: overall business optimism fell after rising for three successive quarters;

Yorkshire and Humberside: Static total orders and falling export orders;

East Midlands: falls in both total orders and export orders;

East Anglia: improved business optimism, despite a fall in total orders;

South-east: a slowdown in the growth in overall confidence and further decline in export optimism;

South-west: decline in total orders and weak export markets;

West Midlands: rising business optimism and growth in total orders;

North-west: increased optimism despite weak domestic and export markets;

Wales: rising optimism and increases in total orders and exports forecast;

Scotland: orders rising at fastest rate for four years due to increased export and home demand;

Northern Ireland: optimism up and demand expected to increase, but output and employment sharply down.