Businesses in Huddersfield are facing a “perfect storm” but the underlying economy remains strong, according to Kirklees Council’s top officer.
Council chief executive Jacqui Gedman was responding to the latest Quarterly Economic Report from the Huddersfield-based Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce and the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.
Ms Gedman said: “Quarter 3 was book-ended by two important milestones in the economic response to the pandemic – the removal of remaining Covid-19 measures in July, as the UK moved into Step 4 of the Government roadmap, and the closure of the furlough scheme at the end of September.
“Locally as well as nationally, unemployment rates have remained lower than forecast earlier in the pandemic. Building on the results from q2, the Quarterly Economic Survey continues to show strong performance in domestic sales, business confidence and capital investment.
“At the same time, many of our businesses now face a perfect storm of recruitment difficulties, shipping and other supply chain constraints and rapidly rising energy costs.
“The last 18 months have taught us that maintaining an open dialogue with our larger employers, SMEs and microbusinesses is absolutely essential both to understand the issues they face, and how business organisations like the chamber and local/regional government can help.
“Despite this, I’m confident that our business community will once again demonstrate its resilience and adaptability.
“Recent events including the Kirklees Top 100 and Huddersfield Business Week have showcased how local businesses are developing ground-breaking solutions to climate change, cancer treatment and other global challenges.
“Their commitment to investing in innovation and workforce skills, and in the communities which host them, is exemplary.”
The report shows how job vacancies are at record levels but firms are struggling to recruit skilled staff.
Around 65% of service sector firms and 81% of manufacturers reported difficulties recruiting in the last quarter, up from 56% and 57% respectively in quarter two of this year.
The latest Quarterly Economic Report has revealed the true impact that Covid-19, Brexit and ongoing supply chain challenges are having on the local economy.
Service sector sales growth remains strong across Huddersfield but manufacturing sales have slowed, due largely to supply chain challenges that are resulting in fulfilments being delayed.
International sales remain subdued across the region, with around half of manufacturers still facing challenges exporting into the EU, while the cost and availability of logistics and transportation remains problematic, with UK border delays and the impact of new trade procedures the most commonly cited barriers.
The availability and cost of raw material is also being cited by manufacturers as a major challenge, alongside shipping disruptions and driver shortages.
Martin Hathaway, managing director of the Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said of the results: “I am delighted to see growth in our region’s domestic sales as we push forward with our Covid-19 recovery. This is testament to the true Yorkshire spirit that is embodied by our region’s business community.
“While growth figures are looking promising, ongoing supply chain issues and struggles to trade overseas are still being faced by many here in Yorkshire and across the UK.
“Firms are still being impacted by the fall-out from Brexit, compounded by the more recent issues experienced by operators that rely on HGV transport.
“Longer term solutions are needed to ensure we can future proof our operations and supply chains should further restrictions be needed over the winter months.”
To read the report in full report go to www.mycci.co.uk/get-represented/quarterly-economic-survey-qes-and-results.