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Business conditions consolidating gains in north

Media release February 28th, 2001

Business conditions consolidating gains in the north

With sales and profitability showing modest gains in January, growth for manufacturers in the north appears modest but steady, according to the latest Employers & Manufacturers Association Business Conditions survey.

"Though the survey showed cautious advances in January, the outlook now is far brighter than it was last November," commented Bruce Goldsworthy, Director of EMA's Manufacturing Division.

"The figures show a steady rise in optimism. 86 per cent of manufacturers expect turnover will stay the same or improve, with 79 per cent expecting profit to remain the same or improve.

"However few signs of new investment have emerged. Only 19 per cent of firms are running at full capacity, with an average capacity utilisation overall at 70 per cent. Most businesses can see neither new sales opportunities nor the profit to be made by investing in new equipment and jobs.

"Nevertheless firms in January showed a renewed intention in upskilling their staff. An improvement in cashflow is also encouraging, but no indicator has returned anywhere near the levels they were early last year.

"The survey identifies sudden difficulties in recruiting suitable management and professional staff. Other anecdotal reports suggest we may be on the verge of a further round of skill shortages, which would hamper further export growth.

"Other reassuring news from the survey is that prices are rapidly stabilising.

"But unlike our more bullish counterparts in Canterbury, growth in the north is being restricted by a difficult market for building materials to Australia, and also by the construction slump locally."

Further comments: Bruce Goldsworthy tel 09 367 0948 (bus) 09 522 2723 (hme)

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