Economic survey results from the North East Chamber of Commerce show that the region’s businesses are more confident about their future profitability and turnover.

Exports and investment trends, key indicators of business and economic health, have also both ticked up. While inflation and staff costs are still concerns, the proportion of businesses identifying them as a problem has diminished since the peaks seen in 2022.

The survey, conducted in November, shows that 50% of firms are still reporting staffing shortages with full-time, permanent staff identified as the toughest group to secure. This has been a consistent picture over the last 24 months.

Despite the staffing challenges, the future workforce indicator has increased since last quarter, showing a sense of optimism about future workforce growth.

Andrew Haigh, Chamber president and chief executive of Newcastle Building Society, said: “Survey results from the final quarter of 2023 show an improving picture regarding business concerns around inflation, exchange rates and energy prices.

“This quarter’s results also show an improvement in UK orders and sales, together with an increase in export orders and sales. Combined with a reduction in concerns surrounding interest rates and inflation, there are signs of positivity as our businesses think about the year ahead.”

He continued: “We know that 2024 will be a period of significant change in the North East’s political and economic landscapes. We look forward to working closely with local and national government to continue to highlight the successful work that businesses across the North East are undertaking and to campaign on the challenges.”

The survey shows that business concerns about energy prices have seen the most significant decline in annual levels, with firms now reporting increasing concerns around competition, red tape, taxation, crime and congestion.

Results also indicate there has only been a small decline in expenditure on energy, with 79% of businesses saying they had taken action to reduce it this quarter.

John McCabe, Chamber chief executive, said: “Our quarterly economic survey ensures that both locally and nationally, we can carry the priorities and concerns of our members to government, opposition parties and local politicians.

“Having a clear and accurate message means the collective voice of the region’s businesses is heard by key decision makers. This power of collaboration ensures we are working together to secure a stronger, fairer future for the North East.”