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Businesses have increased the size of their workforce, says QES

The results in the report published today (Thursday), which covers the three months from October to December 2016, shows that sales within the manufacturing sector rebounded during the fourth quarter of the year.

In total 74% of manufacturing firms reported that sales had either increased or remained the same compared to the previous quarter.

Research into export sales activity revealed 87% of manufacturing businesses and 70% of service sector firms said export sales were the same as Q3 or had increased.

In total 54% of businesses operating across the services sector reported that UK sales remained in line with the previous quarter. Only 16% of services sector businesses reported a decline in UK sales during the fourth quarter.

Export orders for manufacturing firms reported a net balance figure of +33% up from -31% in the previous quarter.

For the service sector the picture was the opposite with a balance figure for businesses operating across the sector of below 0, indicating an overall contraction in export orders, meaning that more firms cited a decline in export orders versus those that reported an increase.

Both sectors revealed they had increased their headcount during the final quarter of 2016. Manufacturers, in particular, reported their second consecutive quarterly increase in employee headcount with the balance figure of 24%, the highest level recorded in 2016.

The service sector is expected to outperform manufacturers in terms of hiring staff during the next quarter.

Manufacturing firms and the services sector both reported an improvement in investment during the fourth quarter.

In total 33% of manufacturers reported increased investment in plant/machinery and 95% revealed their investment in training had either remained the same or increased during Q4.

During the same period 18% of services sector firms increased investment in plant/machinery and 80% said their investment in training had increased or remained the same.

When questioned 96% of service sector firms and 85% of manufacturers reported that confidence as measured by turnover had increased or was consistent with Q3.  Also 81% of manufacturing firms said their profitability had increased or stayed the same when compared with the second quarter of the year.

Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Paul Griffiths said: “It is reassuring to see now that the immediate dust has settled from the fallout of the EU referendum vote, businesses across the county have adopted a ‘business as usual’ approach, with manufacturing firms in particular seeing an increase in activity and in some cases outperforming their services sector counterparts.

“Furthermore, we are encouraged to see that both sectors – manufacturing and services – have increased the size of their respective workforces. However, we will monitor whether this hiring activity is down to seasonal trends when we survey businesses again during the first QES of 2017.

“With around a fifth of service sector businesses investing in plant/machinery over the quarter coupled with the majority maintaining the same level of investment in their workforce it is evident that the sector is taking long term approach whist riding out the current waves of uncertainty.”

The survey, conducted in November, contains responses from 97 businesses employing 8,680 people from across the county. 

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