Growth dips in March yet firms remain bullish

Julian Harris
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BRITISH firms are looking forward to a prosperous second quarter according to a survey published this morning, despite growth slumping to its lowest rate for eight months in March.

The latest growth indicator from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) slipped to a balance of plus 19 this month, down from February’s record level of plus 32.

The figure shows the gap between the percentage of surveyed firms that are upbeat about their level of output over the past three months, and those that respond negatively.

However, the percentage of surveyed companies feeling upbeat about the coming three months was 36 points above those expecting their level of output to be down, or at a disappointing level.

“Although growth has slowed from record levels last month, it remains strong and firms are optimistic it will pick up again in the next quarter,” said Anna Leach from the CBI.

“As this year progresses, we expect further increases in business and consumer confidence. Productivity and earnings should also start to recover.”

Her views echo comments made by Bank of England rate-setter Martin Weale yesterday, who said that wage growth should pick up. “My sense is things are going quite well,” Weale said. “What we are starting to see is that wage growth is starting to pick up and that’s very encouraging because for growth to be sustained we do need income and wages to be rising.”

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation said yesterday that 28 per cent of firms have planned a pay rise for staff this year.