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Small and medium enterprises (SME’s) in Britain are upbeat about growth prospects and job creation in the year ahead, according to research carried out by Clydesdale Bank. The bank surveyed more than 800 UK SMEs about their prospects for the year ahead. It expects the UK’s 4.9 million SME’s to recruit +2.9% more staff in 2014, a figure that translates to around 417,000 new jobs across Britain as a whole.
Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees were the most likely to grow staff numbers with 63% indicating they expected to add to their workforce in the months ahead. There was greater caution in the medium-sized business sector - firms with between 50 and 249 employees - where just 36% said they expected to recruit in 2014.
The survey also highlighted considerable regional variation. Job prospects are especially bright in the North East where 64% of SME’s intend to hire more staff. Recruitment is also set to be strong in London, where 46% of SME’s signalled plans to increase staff numbers, with the Midlands (44%) and Scotland (43%) following closely behind.
The survey also found particular confidence in the accounting and manufacturing industries where a significant number of new jobs look set to be created. More than half of accounting firms (53%) and more than half of manufacturing SME’s (51%) polled planned to create jobs. Recruitment intention was lowest among wholesale and retail traders, with just 9% of those questioned planning to hire new staff.
While the majority of UK businesses (58%) surveyed do not intend to create new jobs, just 2% said they would cut staff numbers, suggesting that the economic conditions were improving.
Alan Young, regional director for Business and Private Banking with Clydesdale Bank in the East of England, said: "While our research suggests that many businesses are becoming more confident about investing in their future, it is important that we recognise there remain considerable challenges to growth. Access to funding is crucial to achieving growth aspirations. SME’s are crucial to the UK economy and its emerging recovery and we will continue to support them in 2014."