COUNTY business chiefs have warned Worcestershire’s economy remained sluggish in the weeks before the Government imposed a lockdown to tackle the Coronavirus crisis.
The claims come from Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce’s report into the first quarter of 2020 which revealed initial confidence across the two counties was off-set by the arrival of COVID-19.
Commerce chiefs gathered data from February 17 to March 9 to paint a picture of the state of the local economy on the eve of the escalation of the Coronavirus outbreak.
“Businesses were supposed to be able to breathe a sigh of relief during the first quarter of 2020, a General Election had secured a majority in the House of Commons, the UK had left the EU and businesses had 11 months to prepare for the new regulatory arrangement with the EU,” the report said.
“Economists across the country predicted a powerful bounce back in January, yet the business community now finds itself in unprecedented times on a scale more global than they could have imagined.
“The advent of Coronavirus presents obstacles for the movement of people and threatens to initiate a global economic slowdown which transcends sovereign lines,” the report said.
Chamber bosses revealed the start of the quarter had seen investment and confidence stabilise, as a result of the majority gained in the House of Commons by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“This upwards trajectory has now been offset by the COVID-19 crisis. Indicators suggest the economy remains stagnant, deprived of the much-needed relief from the relentless political uncertainty of 2019.
“The weak outputs of 2019 have been extended; poor cash flow and low export sales and orders dominate the economic picture.
“The reduction of political uncertainty pushed up business confidence, the arrival of the coronavirus during the final week of data collection hampered cash flow and export,” the report added.
Chamber bosses have warned the true impact of the Coronavirus crisis on local businesses will be revealed in their next report later in the summer.