Business confidence in the North-East fell one point during September to zero per cent, according to the latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Companies in the North-East report lower confidence in their business prospects, which fell six points to 7 per cent. When taken alongside their views of the economy overall, this gives an overall confidence of 0 per cent.

But businesses’ hiring intentions showed that a net balance of 12 per cent of businesses in the North-East expect to hire more staff during the next year, up 12 points on last month.

Across the UK, overall confidence rose one point to two per cent as firms’ confidence in their own prospects climbed five points to 13 per cent.

The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends both regionally and nationwide.

Kelly Green, regional director for the North East at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “In the North East, it’s really encouraging to see an increase in businesses’ hiring intentions in September, which have grown by 12 points since August, despite the fall in business confidence.

“We’re by the side of businesses across the region, to help them achieve their goals and make the most of any opportunities presented, as we work together to steer through an uncertain environment.

“We have committed £700 million to support firms throughout 2019, to help fund their growth plans.”

Across the North-East, a net balance of 20 per cent of businesses said they felt that the UK’s exit from the European Union was having a negative impact on their expectations for business activity, down eight points on a month ago.

National overview Businesses in the East Midlands showed the most confidence, at 15 per cent, ahead of the West Midlands and Yorkshire (both on seven per cent).

Those in Scotland were the least confident, with an overall confidence of -18 per cent, 20 points below the national average.

Overall confidence remained the weakest in the manufacturing sector, where it fell by five points to -2 per cent, and the services sector, which remained unchanged at -3 per cent. Overall business confidence in the retail sector rose by eight points to 14%, but fell two points in the construction sector to 10 per cent.

Hann-Ju Ho, senior economist for Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “While overall business confidence this month has remained broadly steady across the UK, optimism in the economy has fallen, and both remain significantly below the same period last year, and the historic average. This month we are also seeing firms’ concerns about leaving the EU intensify against the backdrop of ongoing economic uncertainty.”