The increase in payroll employment in January suggests that Omicron had little effect on the UK labour market as demand for workers remained robust. While it is encouraging that payroll employment is rising and unemployment continues to fall, the strong headline figures masks significant underlying challenges.
A late 2021 upswing in UK goods trade, particularly in chemicals exports to Ireland, does not hide the significant room for improvement in trade needed if the UK is to make the most of its recovery from the depths of the pandemic in 2020.
While UK GDP growth held steady in the fourth quarter, the resilient headline figure masks a loss of momentum in the quarter from a strong November outturn to a fall in output in December as Omicron suffocated activity.
BCC has warned the Treasury of an impending ‘cost of doing business crisis’. A new survey of more than 1,000 businesses, showed that firms across the country are under intense pressure from a variety of costs. It found that prices were likely to rise as a result, further fuelling the cost-of-living crisis for households.
Responding to the Chancellor’s announcement on the cost-of-living crisis, Hannah Essex, Co-Executive Director of the BCC, said:
“While assistance for households is welcome, businesses will be dismayed at the lack of support for those firms also struggling with their energy bills."
Responding to the publication of the Levelling Up White Paper, Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:
“This is an important first step in putting local economic prosperity at the heart of Government policy. This step though, must now rapidly become leaps and bounds. Business communities are keen to see the ambitions of this agenda turn into delivery in the very near future, improving prosperity around the country."