NEW orders in the Midlands have risen at their sharpest rate yet recorded according to the latest barometer survey by Lloyds Bank.

The latest Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking West Midlands PMI report highlighted stronger growth of the region’s private sector economy during February.

Business activity rose at the sharpest rate in the history of the survey, fuelled by a series-record increase in incoming new work. Backlogs of work and employment both rose, albeit at slower rates. Input price inflation eased to a seven-month low, but output charges increased at a slightly faster pace.

The Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking West Midlands Business Activity Index – which measures the combined output of the region’s manufacturing and service sectors – climbed from 60.9 to 62.2 in February.

The rate of expansion signalled was the strongest of all 12 UK regions. Growth of activity was broad-based across the manufacturing and service sectors.

Underpinning higher activity was a further rise in new business received by West Midlands private sector firms. Growth of new orders accelerated to the strongest since data were first available in January 1997.

Survey respondents attributed increased inflows of new work to the launch of new products, advertising campaigns and competitive pricing.

A general improvement in confidence levels was also reported to have aided the expansion of new business.

Employment in the West Midlands private sector rose for a fourteenth consecutive month in February. However, the rate of job creation eased to the slowest since last May and was well below the UK average. 

Backlogs of work at West Midlands private sector companies increased at a weaker rate in February, with the latest increase only marginal and the slowest since last November. 

The rate of input price inflation in the West Midlands private sector moderated to the slowest in seven months during February.

Output prices increased at a slightly sharper rate in the latest survey period. The rate of charge inflation quickened to a solid pace that was above the UK average.        

Dave Atkinson, area director SME banking in the West Midlands, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Survey-record growth of activity and new business in February highlights the strength of the West Midlands economic recovery.

“The buoyant performance, which was the best across all UK regions, was attributed by panellists to a general revival in market confidence.

“Employment growth was a little sluggish but, if workloads continue to rise at current rates, companies should look to boost capacity in the coming months.”