Job losses set to slow down in transport sector - but recession still has a long way to run

Clifton Asset Management survey shows that business owners retirement hopes continue to fade

Small business owners in the transport sector believe the worst of the recession may be over but fear that it has another year or more left to run.

The latest quarterly survey of more than 1,000 businesses, carried out by Clifton Asset Management (CAM), reveals that 28 per cent of firms have cut jobs over the past six months, down from 34 per cent in the last survey.

Meanwhile 12 per cent of owner-managers say they will need to reduce their payroll over the next six months, down two per cent on last time and ten per cent on our spring survey.

And when asked how they saw their business performance over the past quarter, 38 per cent said it had improved, with 35 per cent saying the situation was broadly the same and 27 per cent believing it had deteriorated.

However the positive news in the latest research from CAM, which provides specialist financial and strategic advice to SMEs, is tempered by the fact that most respondents think the recession is far from over.

Some 52 per cent believe the economy will remain in the doldrums for another 12 months or more, with just 12 per cent forecasting that the UK will be out of recession within six months.

This continues to affect peoples retirement plans, with 80 per cent of respondents saying their retirement is further away now than it was a year ago unchanged on the figure recorded six months ago.

Our survey is starting to reveal real cause for hope, on the jobs front at least, that the worst is over, said Anthony Carty, director at Clifton Asset Management.

However SMEs are at the eye of the storm and over half believe the recovery will be long and slow. This seems to chime with forecasts that we could be into 2011 before the recovery is properly under way.

Retirement remains a pipe dream for many business owners in the current climate in fact the number who say they do not plan to retire at all is up in the latest survey, to 22 per cent.

The latest CAM research reveals that over a third of small business owners are still unaware of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee, the major Government initiative aimed at stimulating bank lending to SMEs.

Some 63 per cent say they are now familiar with the scheme, which is actually down 2 per cent on the spring survey figure.

In terms of regions, London and the South East remain the most optimistic in terms of their area being better placed than the UK as a whole to withstand the recession. At the other end of the scale, the CAM survey again highlights the West Midlands as being the most pessimistic about its prospects, with just 15 per cent of small business owners there believing the region is well-placed for recovery.  

It is a sorry state of affairs when awareness of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee appears to have fallen among business owners, and the number who say they have been successful in securing funding through the scheme remains tiny, at around 2 per cent, said Anthony Carty.

While our survey suggests that the UKs SMEs believe the recession has bottomed out, any recovery will be slow at a time when they are bracing themselves for the double whammy of tax increases and public spending cuts.

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