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British Chambers of Commerce News

British Chambers of Commerce News (565)

Commenting on the ‘root and branch’ review of the railway network launched by government today, Hannah Essex, co-Executive Director at the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“After years of disruption and uncertainty, this review comes not before time. Given the role that the railways play in the daily lives of employees and businesses across many parts of the UK, the review must deliver tangible, visible improvements to the system for both businesses and commuters.  

Commenting on the inflation statistics for August 2018, published today by the Office for National Statistics, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: 

“Inflation surprisingly rose for the second successive month in August, largely wiping out the recent recovery in real wage growth and emphasising the continued squeeze on consumers.

Commenting on the publication of the second tranche of UK Government technical notices aimed at giving businesses and citizens advice on the implications of a ‘no deal’ exit from the European Union, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“The latest batch of technical notices published by the government gives more clarity on some specific business issues, but many key questions remain unanswered. Firms still need greater precision from the government in order to be able to plan ahead with confidence. 

Commenting on the Migration Advisory Committee’s report on overseas students, Jane Gratton, Head of Business Environment and Skills at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Business communities around the UK will be bitterly disappointed not to see support for the removal of overseas students from the immigration statistics. We have been calling for the removal of international students from the immigration figures for a long time as the vast majority go home after completing their courses.

“The committee is right to recommend that it should be easier for overseas students to work here at the end of their studies. International students benefit local economies up and down the country, not only through their direct spending power, but also through their skills, languages and cultural awareness. At a time when three quarters of firms are struggling to fill job vacancies, it makes sense to attract and harness the talent of international students. 

Commenting on the labour market figures for September 2018, published today by the ONS, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “The continued drop in unemployment and strong employment levels are further evidence that the UK jobs market remains a bright spot, with firms continuing to hire despite significant economic uncertainty. 

“However, the robust headline data masks several areas of concern. While there was a welcome increase in earnings growth, the gap between pay and price growth remains insufficient to convert into an appreciable pick-up in consumer spending. Sustaining meaningful real wage growth is likely to remain challenging amid subdued productivity and the escalating burden of upfront costs on businesses.

Commenting on the pilot scheme to bring seasonal migrant workers to the UK, Jane Gratton, Head of Business Environment and Skills Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “This is good news, and it’s not before time.  With most firms, across all regions and sectors, having difficulty filling job vacancies, it is critical that the government clarifies the rules for the new immigration system quickly.  

“Now is the time to be shouting from the rooftops that the UK is a great place to live and work.  We need an immigration system that is open and flexible to help firms attract and retain the skills and labour they need to compete in global markets post-Brexit.”

The British Chambers of Commerce, in partnership with DHL, today (Friday) publishes its latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook, based on survey and documentation data from UK exporters. The Outlook indicates that many exporters are performing well but economic and political factors are weighing on them.

The survey, of over 2,600 exporters, found that confidence in future operations remains strong, but external economic and political factors are having an impact. The results show 60% of exporting manufacturers were more concerned about exchange rates in the second quarter of the year than in the previous three months. There was also increased concern among 43% of service exporters,  highlighting the broad impact of the weakness of the pound.

 Commenting on the ONS quarterly migration figures, Jane Gratton, Head of Business Environment and Skills at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“These figures are nothing to celebrate, and given businesses are facing record skills gaps at every level it’s disappointing to see the decline in people from Europe coming here to work. Despite valiant efforts to recruit at home, plus heavy investment in training, employers still need great people to fill job vacancies where there are local shortages.

Commenting ahead of the publication of technical notices from the government relating to the possibility of ‘no deal’ in the Brexit negotiations, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Businesses have waited too long for answers to some basic questions around Brexit - and have been particularly frustrated by the lack of clear guidance on some of the issues that are within the UK government’s own control. ‘No deal’ preparations should have happened far earlier, and the onus is on government to move quickly and give businesses as much detailed technical information as possible to avoid significant disruption in any scenario.

Commenting on the labour market figures for August 2018, published today by the ONS, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “The continued rise in employment and the drop in the unemployment rate is further confirmation that the UK’s jobs market remains in good shape, despite subdued economic conditions.

“With earnings growth continuing to slow, the pace at which pay is exceeding price growth remains negligible, and is therefore unlikely to provide much respite to the financially squeezed consumer. Achieving sustained increases in wage growth remains a key challenge, with sluggish productivity, underemployment and the myriad of high upfront business costs weighing down on pay settlements. As such, there remains precious little sign that wage growth is set to take-off - undermining a key assumption behind the Monetary Policy Committee’s recent decision to raise rates.

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