Business orders 'on the increase'

CashBusiness activity improved in all but one of the nine English regions last month amid an upturn in new orders, a survey has revealed.

Yorkshire & Humber recorded the fastest growth in the Lloyds TSB Regional Purchasing Managers' Index, while only the North East saw lower output.

Overall, the seasonally adjusted index measuring activity in England moved further above the 50 no-change mark to stand at 51.6 in January, up from 50.1 in December.

This was the highest level of output seen since September, although the latest figures still point to only a moderate pace of expansion.

David Oldfield, Lloyds director for SME and mid markets banking, said the survey erased fears that private sector output at the start of the year would be disrupted by the heavy snowfall in January.

He added: "The only exception to the brightening regional economic picture at the start of 2013 was the North East, which saw moderate declines in both business activity and incoming new work."

Helped by improved business confidence and the launch of new projects, the greatest volumes of new orders were seen in London and Yorkshire & Humber.

Increased client demand also helped spur a return to net job creation across the English regions, with the South East and Yorkshire & Humber reporting the greatest improvements in employment.

Staffing levels remained stable in the North East and North West, while the South West witnessed a moderate drop in workforce numbers.

Meanwhile, businesses across all the regions continued to feel inflationary pressures in January, largely fuelled by higher energy bills and raw material prices. The North West recorded the greatest rise in input prices, while the slowest increase was recorded in Yorkshire & Humber.