ECONOMIC activity across the region remains subdued as firms continue to battle the challenges presented by the global coronavirus pandemic.

These are the latest findings from a quarterly economic survey carried out by Chambers in the region, which has also highlighted the need for continued support as companies attempt to rebuild balance sheets.

The report, by West and North Yorkshire Chamber and Mid-Yorkshire Chamber in partnership with the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), indicates that the pace of declining sales has started to slow and shows some improvements from the second quarter of the year.

The survey showed that Yorkshire manufacturers are more confident than those in the service sector and indeed more confident than most other regions in the UK. However, the regional Chambers remain concerned that measures to support businesses once the furlough scheme ends may not go far enough and are calling for targeted support.

Suzanne Watson, president of Bradford Chamber of Commerce and MD of Approach PR, said: “Business conditions remain challenging for many across our region, with the manufacturing sector recording the strongest improvements in the quarter, while consumer-focused services firms, where social distancing restricts activity, saw more limited gains.

“The persistent weakness in cash flow is concerning as it leaves firms more vulnerable to external shocks, including further restrictions. This may also impact on how businesses prepare for future trading relations and border checks with their EU customer and supplier base.

“The furlough scheme, which has been a massive success in retaining jobs, closes at the end of October and whilst the Chancellor has responded positively to Chamber lobbying by extending COVID debt repayment and business rates holidays we feel more needs to be done to protect jobs.”

She called for the employer National Insurance threshold to be increased and for the annual investment allowance to be expanded.

Roger Marsh, chairman of the LEP added: “The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented economic impact on our region. In this quarter we can see that businesses are still feeling the reverberations of the economic downturn in quarter two. While economic activity remains low in quarter three, in both export and domestic activity, there are signs of improvement from the previous quarter.

He said it was great to see business confidence close to pre-COVID levels in some areas of the economy, which speaks to the great resilience of our region as well as the hard work the LEP and partners have put in to support businesses through this difficult period.”