Chambers remain confident North West will escape recession

Chambers of commerce in Liverpool and Manchester were united today in calling the latest quarterly UK economic forecast released by the British Chambers overly negative.

The BCC report predicted a significant worsening in UK economic prospects and an increase in unemployment across the country of up to 300,000 people.

Jack Stopforth, chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, responded: "While these latest figures are worrying they do not confirm a trend. All businesses will feel some impact from the worsening position in the wider economy. We remain cautiously optimistic that Merseyside businesses are doing better than most.

"In our survey of members for the second quarter of this year there was clear evidence that the trading environment was very tough with half of the companies who responded having to face rising raw material and overhead costs and a general slowdown in new orders and sales. Despite this, 33% of companies reported growing employment compared to only 13% reducing jobs with the majority of new posts being full time.

"We have seen some high profile failures in recent months, and there has been a predictable downturn in construction but most sectors have performed well, including local retail, which is bucking the national trend by exhibiting growth. There is also anecdotal evidence that the hospitality sector is doing well with record numbers of visitors coming to the city and our growing base of technology and innovation based businesses are expected to be less affected by the general trend.

"We believe that there are local factors that provide at least some short term insulation against the worst of the credit crunch. But our national body has warned of a "serious risk" of recession, nationally, following its business confidence survey and so this is no time for complacency in any sector."

Stopforth's thoughts were echoed by Ilona Krohn, principal economic adviser to the Greater Manchester chamber. Krohn said: "The BCC's predictions are in line with other sources. However, economic cycles are almost impossible to forecast. The options for economic policy are limited. It is vital that we do not over-analyse the situation and stop focusing on things getting worse. It is very easy to get sucked into a cycle of negativity. We need to deal with challenges as they come up and concentrate our energy on where we want to be."

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