Far be it for me to rain on anyone's strawberries but the CBI have put out a press release today which somewhat contradicts the optimism being talked about in other circles. The essence of it's key findings are that in the three months to July

  • 8% of small & medium sized enterprise (SME) manufacturers said they were more optimistic, while 53% said they were less optimistic, giving a rounded balance of -44% - the sharpest fall in optimism since January 2009 (-71%)
  • 27% said their volume of output was up, and 20% said it was down, giving a rounded balance of +6%. Companies expect output to be flat in the next quarter (+1%)
  • 26% said their domestic orders were up, while 24% said they were down, giving a balance of +2%. Firms domestic orders to fall next quarter (-10%)                      
  • 15% said export orders rose over the past three months, 23% said they fell, leaving a balance of -8%, but firms anticipate export orders to grow over the next three months (+9%).
  • Firms were a little more optimistic about their exports prospects for the year ahead (+4%)
  • The proportion of SME manufacturers citing concerns about political and economic conditions abroad as likely to limit export orders were at a survey record high (49%)
  • 28% of small and medium-sized manufacturers employed more people than three months ago, and 13% employed fewer, leaving a balance of +15%. Hiring intentions are flat for the next quarter (0%)
  • Plans for capital spending in the year ahead fell for both plant and machinery (-16% - lowest since July 2009) and buildings (-24% - lowest since October 2009)
  • Meanwhile, investment in product & process innovation is expected to rise at a moderate pace (+7%), as is spending on training & retraining (+8%).

But are they right or is it just an academic snapshot in time? Sadly, only time will tell but as a great believe in the philosophy that were belief goes, energy flows, this is not particularly encouraging news. Be interesting to hear what former Director General of the CBi, Digby Jones thinks about our prospects when he talks about the whole issue of the Future of Work from  both an employee and employer perspective, as well, of course, potential investors.