Published: 09:05, 13 April 2017
| Updated: 09:13, 13 April 2017
Companies in Kent are showing the highest levels of optimism about hiring staff since before the financial crisis, a survey shows.
In the first three months of the year, the proportion of firms planning to grow their workforce was at its highest since the recession in 2008.
Some 39% said they plan to take on people within the next three months, according to the quarterly economic survey conducted by Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce.
However, the research showed growth in employment slowed down across Kent in the first three months of the year.
Only one in five firms reported they had increased staff numbers, down from 27% of firms which hired more people in the last three months of 2016.
It is the lowest level since 18% in the first quarter of the same year.
More manufacturers shrank their workforce than grew it while 71% of companies overall said their workforce had stayed the same.
However, no manufacturers expected to shrink their workforce in the next three months.
The survey, which had 105 respondents in Kent, is part of the British Chambers of Commerce quarterly economic survey published on Thursday.
It showed the manufacturing sector performing strongly in the first quarter of the year across the country.
This was particularly true in the exports market, with the number of firms reporting improved sales and orders higher than in previous quarters.
It comes as the value of sterling remains about 20% lower than it was before the Brexit vote last year, making British goods cheaper to buy for foreign markets.
However, 76% of manufacturers report an increase in the price of raw materials, up from 65%.
Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “In the here and now, many businesses are resilient and experiencing solid growth.
“Many firms tell us their short-term expectations are strong, but that the medium-term picture is far from clear.
“The rise in inflation seen since last year’s EU referendum is the biggest immediate pressure facing most firms.
“While manufacturers have enjoyed a good quarter, they are facing higher costs at the factory gates, which increasingly translates into companies having to raise their own prices.
“With inflation already above the Bank of England’s target, this squeeze on firms looks set to continue in the medium term.”
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