Private sector returns to growth at start of 2024

By Tim Aldred

12 Feb 2024

Natwest

The North West private sector began the new year with growth in terms of both output and jobs.

The latest NatWest Regional PMI Business Activity Index scored 51.5 for January, on a seasonally adjusted scale where a score above 50 represents growth. December scored 48.8, the sixth month of contraction.

After falling in each of the previous eight months, new business volumes across the North West private sector returned to growth in January. The modest rise in new work was driven largely by the service sector and attributed by surveyed firms to greater enquiries and an improved mood among customers. 

Nevertheless, ticking up from a 12-month low in December, the Future Activity Index was still below its long-run average and signalled a lower degree of optimism than seen across the UK as a whole. Local firms reported hopes of a pick-up in market demand and successful product launches, but they also voiced concerns about competitive pressures and squeezed customer budgets.

There was a solid rise in workforce numbers across the North West private sector in January, thereby reversing the modest back-to-back declines seen at the end of last year. The increase in employment was the most marked since September 2022 and the third-fastest among the 12 monitored regions. Underlying data indicated that job creation was centred on the service sector, where firms reported planning for future growth.

Firms in the North West reported a further reduction in outstanding business (i.e. orders awaiting completion) in January, in line with the trend seen in every month since June 2022. The decline continued to be led by the manufacturing sector, underlying data showed. Although still solid, the rate of depletion slowed for the fifth month running to the weakest since last June.

The rate of increase in business cost slowed slightly in January. The seasonally adjusted Input Prices Index ticked down from December's five-month high and registered broadly in line with its historical series average. Where operating expenses rose during the month, surveyed firms often remarked on salary increases. Cost pressures in the region remained among the lowest nationally, with only Northern Ireland recording a comparatively slower rise.

Matching the trend in input costs, average prices charged by businesses in the North West rose at a slower rate in January. Output price inflation retreated from December's five-month high to its lowest since last September. It also remained firmly below the UK-wide rate, which likewise eased at the beginning of the year.

Malcolm Buchanan, chair of NatWest North Regional Board, commented: "The first batch of PMI data for 2024 indicated a positive start to the year for companies in the North West. Business activity picked up in January amid signs of improving demand, with the increase in workloads also benefitting the region’s labour market. Employment rose notably and at one of the quickest rates seen nationally in January.

"That said, it is important to acknowledge that the upturn in activity follows a downturn throughout most of the second half of last year, and that business expectations towards growth prospects for the next 12 months remain subdued by historical standards."

Enjoyed this? Read more from Tim Aldred

Latest news

1

Hospital makes six-figure pledge to youth charity Bespoke Healthcare New Building

Hospital makes six-figure pledge to youth charity

01 Mar 2024

2

Beer and gin festival returns in support of local youth charity Blackburn Beer and Gin Festival

Beer and gin festival returns in support of local youth charity

29 Feb 2024

3

Half-price Accrington Food Festival offer for Hyndburn businesses TV and Netflix star Molly Robbins will be back to compere the Accrington Food Festival on Saturday 1st June 2024.jpg.jpg

Half-price Accrington Food Festival offer for Hyndburn businesses

01 Mar 2024

4

Holiday village retains VisitEngland five-star rating Ribby Hall Village Reeds Bay

Holiday village retains VisitEngland five-star rating

01 Mar 2024

5

Locally-brewed beer earns CAMRA gold award Lancaster Brewery Head Brewer Will Pammenter

Locally-brewed beer earns CAMRA gold award

01 Mar 2024

Background image for hub sign up block

LBV Hub

Reach 50,000 members of the Lancashire business community

Post your news
Post your events
Post your offers
Company profile
Social reach
Magazine coverage
Sign-up
Events
LBV115 Magazine Launch Event
DSC9389
Networking
20 Mar 2024

LBV115 Magazine Launch Event

Delta Hotels by Preston Marriott, Garstang Road, Broughton, PR3 5JB

16:00 - 18:00

The Landmark Great Hall open day
The Landmark Great Hall will host an Open Day on Sunday 3rd March.jpg.jpg
LBV Hub
03 Mar 2024

The Landmark Great Hall open day

The Landmark, 1 School Lane, Burnley, BB11 1UF

12:00 - 15:00

Business Networking in Chorley - BNI Endeavour
EVENT LISTING SIZING Endeavour.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
05 Mar 2024

Business Networking in Chorley - BNI Endeavour

Oak Royal, Bury Lane, Chorley, PR6 8SW

06:30 - 08:30

Techy Tuesday Meet-Up at Society1
Techy Tuesdays.jpg.jpg
LBV Hub Networking
05 Mar 2024

Techy Tuesday Meet-Up at Society1

Society1, Preston, PR1 3LT

12:00 - 13:00

Business Networking in Blackburn - BNI Vista
EVENT LISTING SIZING Vista.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
05 Mar 2024

Business Networking in Blackburn - BNI Vista

Hampton by Hilton, 2 Frontier Ave, Blackburn, BB1 3AL

06:45 - 08:30

Business Networking in Preston - BNI Diamond
LBV Hub Networking
06 Mar 2024

Business Networking in Preston - BNI Diamond

The Marriot Hotel, Garstang Road, Broughton, PR3 5JB

07:15 - 09:00

Business Networking in Lancaster - Eden Business Network
EVENT LISTING Eden Business Network.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
06 Mar 2024

Business Networking in Lancaster - Eden Business Network

The Borough, 3 Dalton Square, Lancaster, LA1 1PP

18:30 - 20:30

Business Networking in Accrington - BNI Zeus
EVENT LISTING SIZING Zeus.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
06 Mar 2024

Business Networking in Accrington - BNI Zeus

The Mill House, Corn Mill Yard, Accrington, BB5 5HX

06:45 - 08:30

Blackburn and Preston Audi VIP Events
Stoke NN (2).jpg.jpg
LBV Hub Exhibitions
07 Mar 2024 - 11 Mar 2024

Blackburn and Preston Audi VIP Events

Blackburn Audi/ Preston Audi, Blackburn Audi, Trident Park, Whitebirk Drive, Blackburn BB1 3HT / Preston Audi Riversway Motor Park, Nelson Way, Preston PR2 2JZ, BB1 3HT / PR2 2JZ

08:30 - 19:00

Business Networking in Burnley - BNI Kudos
EVENT LISTING BNI Kudos.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
07 Mar 2024

Business Networking in Burnley - BNI Kudos

Prairie Sports Village, Windemere Avenue, Burnley, BB10 2FU

06:45 - 08:30

The PM+M Spring Budget seminar - East Lancashire
Spring budget East Lancs.jpg.png
LBV Hub Seminars
07 Mar 2024

The PM+M Spring Budget seminar - East Lancashire

Lakeside Suite, Crow Wood Hotel, Holme Road, , Burnley, BB12 0RT

08:00 - 10:30

The PM+M Spring Budget seminar
Spring Budget Bury.png.png
LBV Hub Seminars
07 Mar 2024

The PM+M Spring Budget seminar

Red Hall Hotel, Manchester Road , Walmersley , BL9 5NA

12:45 - 15:15

Advertise with us

Reaching 50,000 members, our print, digital and event platforms offer a fantastic way to raise your business profile and help you grow.

Find out more Lbv114 Online Graphic
Subscribe now

Weekly news bulletin