THE St Helens economy continues to present a major challenge for local businesses, according to a survey by St Helens Chamber.
And results from the first quarterly economic survey for 2011 indicate that there are still tough times ahead - with a majority of measures showing a decline in both the manufacturing and services sectors.
Both sectors are still recruiting, it shows, but at a much lower rate than predicted - and domestic markets are slowing as public sector cuts, fuel rises and the increase in VAT start to bite.
The survey also highlighted concerns about inflation, which are at a record high for both sectors with the cost of raw materials the major burden for local manufacturing firms.
Sara Williams, St Helens Chamber’s director of enterprise development, said: “This has been a tough start to 2011 for local businesses as the UK economy faces some significant challenges.
“In addition to the Government’s deficit reduction programme and the rise in VAT, there have been large increases in the cost of raw materials and fuel, which can only intensify pressures on business cashflow and on profit margins.”