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A few weeks before Christmas I talked about the Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) and encouraged you all to take part. Well some of you must have been spurred into action as a record 827 businesses responded which is the highest response rate so far and makes the latest QES the most authoritative so far. What is really pleasing is that 110 businesses in Stockport (one of the 10 geographic areas covered by the QES) responded.

So given I encouraged you all to take part I might as well take this opportunity to share with you some of the results and the predictions from the Chamber for 2012.

The Manufacturing sector within Stockport has seen a slight drop in confidence which has come off the back of a small easing of demand since the previous quarter. However, many manufacturers have been balancing out the weak domestic market with continued growth in the export arena. The service sector in Stockport remains relatively upbeat and optimistic, however investment and job creation plans going forward through 2012 look like they will be more-or-less flat.

So what are the predictions for 2012 that have come out of the QES? Firstly inflation is likely to fall during the course of 2012 as factors such as last year’s VAT increase drop out of the inflation calculation. Interest rates are expected to remain low over the course of 2012 but speculation about rises in interest rates is likely to increase as the year goes on.

Unemployment is likely to rise with private sector firms continuing their period of consolidation whilst jobs will continue to be lost in the public sector. Talk has been made about the private sector creating enough jobs to offset the public sector losses but with the continued economic uncertainty the private sector is not capable (nor is it willing) to create enough jobs to cover the public sector losses. Consequently  a rise in unemployment is almost certain with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development predicting a 120,000 rise in unemployment over 2012.

Whilst investment is starting to come through for business, transport and other infrastructure projects (such as the A555 Airport link road) combined with Regional Growth Fund money it is unclear whether these will come through soon enough to have any impact on the 2012 figures.

However, it’s worth putting some of the Greater Manchester figures in perspective against the national picture where on the whole businesses within Greater Manchester are performing relatively well with unemployment levels in Greater Manchester running at 4.7% against a national average of over 8% and Stockport businesses continue to come up with success stories on an almost daily basis.

So on that note I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all success in business for 2012 and next week you will be hearing from past President Ben Poland on the launch of the Stockport Business Awards which will be a prestigious event for Stockport celebrating all that is good about business within Stockport.