The latest figures from Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) – for the third three months of 2020 – shows that both manufacturers and service companies enjoyed a strong rebound from the previous quarter’s historic lows.

However, most of the criteria measured by the survey remain both in negative territory and well below the levels from the same quarter in 2019.

As a result, Suffolk Chamber is upping its calls for continued government support as the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to drag down business activity and sentiment.

The balance of manufacturing firms reporting an increase in domestic sales rose by 59 percentage points to -4% (ie slightly more companies reported a decline, rather than an increase) compared with Q2, with overseas sales at -7% (an increase of 32 percentage points).

The numbers of firms reporting an increase in current employment rose from -26% to +4%, with those anticipating a future increase in employment rising from -14% to +5%.

Those reporting positive cashflow stood at +8% (up by 62 percentage points), with confidence in improving turnover at -4% (33 percentage points) and improving profits at -29% (up by 15 percentage points).

The balance of service firms reporting an increase in domestic sales fell to -8% (a rise 67 percentage points compared with Q2), with overseas sales at -21% (up by 49 percentage points).

The numbers of service firms reporting an increase in employment increased from -25% to -10%, with those anticipating a future increase in employment improving from  -30% to -18%

Those reporting positive cashflow stood at -9% (up 58 percentage points), with confidence in improving turnover at – 13% (up by 37 percentage points%) and improving profits up to -24% (up by 38 percentage points).

Paul Simon, Suffolk Chamber’s head of communications & campaigns, said: “As expected and hoped-for, these figures are a noticeable improvement on the disastrous previous quarter. They reflect the ingenuity and sheer adaptability of the county’s business owners and their employees.

“However, if business activity and sentiment is to continue to rebuild, it is vital that the government and local councils continue to move mountains in supporting these same businesses to boost investment and avoid further significant job losses.

“Suffolk Chamber is impressed with most of the schemes currently up and running, especially the Kickstart Scheme, where we are a gateway organisation helping 16 to 24-year-olds secure placements with local businesses.

“But such levels of intervention are likely to be required over the longer, rather than the shorter, term to allow the recovery to be secured.”

Suffolk Chamber is grateful to Suffolk Knowledge, part of Suffolk County Council, for providing the analysis of this QES.