THE region’s economy has entered 2018 in a “strong position” but the hard work isn’t over yet, a business organisation has claimed.

The North East England Chamber of Commerce says companies are heading into the new year with confidence, as trade growth complements a rise in employment.

However, the body has warned firms against complacency and challenged the Government to maintain strong trade relations with Europe amid Brexit uncertainty.

The calls form the crux of the Chamber’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey, released today, which shows businesses ended 2017 in an upbeat mood.

According to the study, almost two thirds of respondents said they aimed to recruit full-time staff, with overall workforce scores at their highest since 2015.

It also revealed firms’ spending on equipment in the final quarter of 2017 stood at its highest since the middle of 2015, with companies also benefiting from growth in domestic sales and a turnaround in exports.

John McCabe, Chamber president, said the update was proof of a regional business community working hard to make progress in an uncertain climate.

However, he warned companies not to get too comfortable with their progress.

“I have had the opportunity to see and hear firsthand how members have continued to be ambitious in their growth plans and make such valuable contributions to the economy,” said Mr Mc- Cabe.

“We’ve seen growth domestically and in exports, while our region’s remarkable improvement in private sector employment looks set to continue, and these survey results show the region’s economy is entering 2018 in a strong position.

“However, we know there is much more we can do to improve our resilience and build an even stronger platform for growth.

“That is why we will continue to campaign for a stronger region and why it is so important for businesses of all shapes and sizes to join the cause and help our region fulfil its enormous potential.”

However, the survey did reveal some cautionary areas, particularly over Brexit, with some members worrying about the impact on future planning and recruitment due to skill shortages and issues over staff retention.