SMALL businesses across County Durham are looking to expand and build on increasing optimism, a report has said.

A study of more than 1,500 companies employing up to ten workers, said firms in the region were nearly three times more confident about their business' prospects than in 2013.

The report, carried out by printing.com, revealed the region's optimism of 72 per cent was higher than a number of areas in the UK, including Wales.

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“The results demonstrate the good news that the recovery is real at the level of the UK's vital army of micro businesses,” said Tony Rafferty, chief executive of printing.com.

“These businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and the survey shows that their business confidence is on the up, with many looking to launch new services and initiatives and in turn create new jobs.

“What’s required now is more recognition and support for the contribution these businesses make to the economy.

“They account for millions of jobs but are often overlooked in discussions about the economy.”