North West tops UK business activity growth

The latest NatWest UK Regional PMI survey shows the North West of England enjoyed the fastest rise in business activity in April.

The North West registered a Business Activity Index reading of 55.2 in April, up from 53.7 in March and a seven-month high.

It compared with a UK-wide average of 50.9.

Other areas that grew faster than the UK national rate were Wales (53.0), the West Midlands (52.6), Yorkshire & Humber (52.4), the South East (51.7), the East Midlands (51.4) and Scotland (51.0).

Business activity rose in the North East (50.3) for the first time in eight months, albeit marginally.

The South West (49.6), London (49.6) and the East of England (48.8) each saw further, albeit slight contractions in output in April.

Business confidence towards the outlook for output over the next 12 months improved in most areas in April.

Expectations were highest overall in Yorkshire & Humber, where businesses showed the strongest optimism since October last year.

Sebastian Burnside, NatWest Chief Economist, commented: “There were parts of the UK that continued to grow at a healthy rate at the start of the second quarter, the most notable of these being the North West and Wales; however, other areas such as Northern Ireland and London remained stuck in contraction, with the latest surveys highlighting the lingering influence of Brexit.

“Underlying demand remained sluggish and tended to exhibit a weaker trend thanoverall business activity in most areas, which was reflected in a broad-based drop in outstanding business during the month.

“It remained a mixed picture for employment, with only half of the 12 UK areas seeing a rise in job numbers in April, though recovering business confidence could spur more widespread hiring in the coming months.”