West Midlands companies are in buoyant mood, claims the region's biggest business survey.
The Confederation of West Midlands Chambers of Commerce quizzes its 13,000-plus members quarterly on a wide range of issues; from investment intentions to recruitment hopes.
The results are seen as a critical indicator of the health of the regional economy.
Confederation president David Burton said the survey showed both the manufacturing and service sectors to be bullish about current trading and future prospects.
"More than 40 per cent of the companies in each sector reported that domestic sales had risen during the final quarter of last year, and almost the same number said demand had been steady," he said.
The level of overseas sales was also impressive; with almost a third of service sector companies and more than a quarter of manufacturers revealing increased demand. The Confederation's research also indicated that West Midland firms expected the strong trading performances to continue.
"Across both sectors, 36 per cent of companies reported that advance orders from UK customers were up, and around 45 per cent said orders remained steady," said Mr Burton.
"Roughly 60 per cent of firms in both sectors forecast that both turnover and profit levels will increase."
A significant number of companies were also expecting to expand .
"Roughly a quarter of businesses in both sectors are expecting to recruit before the end of March, and a handful believes jobs will go during the same period," said Mr Burton.
The Confederation's survey does underline the problems many employers face when attempting to expand their workforces though.
He said: "About half the companies in both sectors are actively attempting to recruit, and between 40 and 50 per cent of them have full- time vacancies for skilled, technical, professional and managerial staff.
" Once again though, many are reporting difficulties in finding potential employees of the correct calibre and with the skill set that they require."
The Confederation's research does not suggest that the issue is yet of critical importance, as members remain bullish about their plans for training. More than a quarter say their proposed investment will increase, and another twothirds say they are maintaining their previous level.
However, Mr Burton said recruitment issues would soon become a handicap unless firms make better use of the training opportunities available in both public and private sectors.