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East Midlands economy continues to get better according to new NatWest survey, though growth still weak

The latest survey of East Midlands business leaders by NatWest suggest things are continuing to improve.

The bank’s monthly PMI business activity survey for April suggests employment could be getting back on track, and while prices are still going up, the rate of inflation is easing.

The latest data signalled a small rise in output from East Midlands businesses, at a rate not seen since last May thanks to an increase in orders.

That said, the pace of growth was slower than the UK average, with only Wales registering a weaker rise in activity.

The April data signalled a strengthening in business confidence across the East Midlands, with the region's companies more upbeat about the outlook over the coming 12 months than the UK as a whole. Hopes for greater client demand, investment in marketing and new product development spurred optimism, the bank said.

Stronger business confidence was broad-based, with manufacturers more upbeat than service providers.

There was also a rise in employment during April, though the rate of job creation was still moderate. Of the 11 monitored UK regions that signalled growth in employment, only the North East recorded a slower uptick than the East Midlands.

East Midlands firms also registered a marked rise in input costs at the start of the second quarter, due to higher raw material, supplier and wage bills. Nonetheless, the rate of cost inflation slowed again and was also slightly softer than the UK average.

Rashel Chowdhury, who sits on the NatWest Midlands and East Regional board, said: “East Midlands firms signalled a sustained upturn in output during April, as a further rise in new orders supported total activity. Increased demand spurred firms on to expand workforce numbers, and the rate of job creation was the fastest since last October.

“In turn, companies were more upbeat in their expectations for the coming year as business confidence reached the highest in over a year.

"Inflationary pressures remained marked, however. Although firms noted a softer rise in cost burdens again, there was a renewed acceleration in charge inflation which is likely to add strain to already challenged customer purchasing power.”

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