Yorkshire and Humber manufacturers lead the way in business confidence and exports to North America

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Manufacturers in Yorkshire and Humber are leading the way when it comes to business confidence and exports to North America, according to a new annual report launched today by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, and global law firm DLA Piper.

  • Manufacturers in Yorkshire and Humber score second highest in the UK for business confidence
  • The region accounts for almost 6% (5.5%) of the UK’s manufactured exports
  • 49% of Yorkshire and Humber’s manufactured exports go to the EU, its largest market. But 22% head to North America, the highest proportion for any English region
  • Regional manufacturing output is higher than the UK average, but at 88.5% of the UK average productivity is relatively low
  • After seeing the fastest employment growth in England, over one in ten workers in Yorkshire and Humber (13%) are employed by manufacturers – manufacturing provides jobs for 315,000 people across the region.

The report – Regional Manufacturing Outlook – draws upon survey data and the latest ONS figures to provide a longer-term picture of the state of UK manufacturing. It shows that manufacturers in Yorkshire and Humber are front-runners in the business confidence league. The region scores 6.82 out of a possible ten points for confidence, placing it second out of nine regions and indicating that manufacturers in the region are feeling more confident than the majority of their peers elsewhere in the UK. Only manufacturers in the West Midlands are feeling more confident.

The region also scores highly for exports, contributing almost 6% (5.5%) to the UK’s total manufactured exports. The EU is the UK’s largest market for manufacturing exports and this is no different in Yorkshire and the Humber where the EU takes almost half (49.3%) of its exports. However, Yorkshire and Humber leads the way when it comes to exporting to North America. Over two in ten (22%) of the region’s exports head to this part of the world – the highest amount out of all the English regions.

At the same time, Yorkshire and Humber ranks 7th in terms of manufacturing output. The sector accounts for an above average 13.9% of regional output and contributes just over 9% (9.4%) to the UK’s overall manufacturing output. Productivity in the region – at 88.5% – is however relatively low compared with other regions.

There is also good news on the employment front. The number of jobs in manufacturing in the region increased by 12% between 2010 and 2014 – the fastest employment growth for any English region. Yorkshire and Humber manufacturers now employ 315,000 people – over one in ten (13%) of the region’s total workforce.

Despite some headwinds as weak demand from the oil and gas industry hits the metals sector, future prospects remain strong, suggesting that the region’s manufacturers could be retaining their place towards the top of the confidence league for a while yet.

Andy Tuscher, Yorkshire and Humber Region Director at EEF, says:

This report shows that Yorkshire and Humber manufacturers are punching above their weight and putting our region on the map. Almost 6% of the UK’s manufactured exports are being made in our region and this success story enables our ingenuity, creativity and skills to be recognised around the world and particularly in Europe – our biggest market – and North America.

Manufacturers in the region are rightly feeling more confident than many of their peers. And, with future forecasts looking good, their optimism is well founded and likely to keep them flying high, and flying the flag, for some time to come.

Richard May, partner and Head of the Manufacturing Sector at DLA Piper, says:

Some very positive key indicators under difficult circumstances is a good place to be, particularly given the importance of the sector to the region. It takes a lot to change the mood of a sector with significant and broad-based manufacturing output, particularly given the importance of what has been happening in the unstable oil and gas sector.

What we are now seeing on the ground is a considered response to changing market conditions and Yorks & Humber manufacturers are coming out of a period of uncharacteristic caution with a sharp focus on what is required for the region to be at the forefront of a resilient UK domestic demand whilst ensuring that it strengthens its position as a prolific exporter into the EU and North America.

In spite of being a major employer in the region and experiencing the fastest growth of any English region since 2013 q4, Yorks & Humber manufacturers remain justifiably concerned about skills gaps both in the more traditional industries and the increasingly important high tech industries. This shortage may further encourage the drive for improved productivity – something which tops the list of priorities for most of the region’s manufacturers but it must not impede their ability to grow in existing markets and expand into new ones. There is still a lot to be done locally and nationally to allay these concerns.

The full Regional Manufacturing Outlook can be downloaded here: