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December 2016 economic statistics: All the figures SMEs need to know

7 min read

04 January 2017

These last few months have been mired with uncertainty, so it stands to reason the figures comprising our December 2016 economic statistics roundup reflect it.

After a turbulent year, the next 12 months will be even more challenging as Brexit, the gig economy and pay dominate the labour market – the former being addressed in our December 2016 economic statistics roundup.

With the fall of the pound and slowing inward investment, “the single biggest thing the government could do to help during this time would be to give businesses greater certainty over the direction of travel, the residence status of migrants already in the country and the likely extent of restrictions on new flows of migrants,” the CIPD’s acting chief economist Ian Brinkley explained.

Tackling at least some of the worries UK business owners have would go a long way as there are far more hurdles on the road ahead – Brinkley cited slower economic growth, increased unemployment, fewer new jobs and a lack of pay rises for most as topics to look forward to going forwards.

“Overall, employment stopped growing between May-October 2016 and this trend of very weak job growth has continued past December and into 2017. Also, against a backdrop of anticipated higher inflation, real wages are set to fall.”

Meanwhile, the ICAEW is of the belief that the number of businesses exporting has remain unchanged in the last two years despite the government’s £1tn export target – the number of exporting firms being stuck at 53 per cent. It is also revealed in our December 2016 economic statistics that 96 per cent of non-exporters don’t plan on starting any time soon.

With that information combined, and taking into account the view of 5,500 entrepreneurs from a Sage report, it’s no surprise British companies are concerned about the global economy. Some 61 per cent claimed a trickle of changes had already hit the UK for better or for worse.

This has translated into business confidence being lower in Britain than in the rest of the world, Sage explained. Currency fluctuations, bureaucracy, the lack of relevant skills and access to funding were all flagged areas that could suffer knock-on effects from the Brexit vote.

“We say it often,” claimed Jacqueline de Rojas, MD of Northern Europe at Sage, “entrepreneurs and business builders are the powerhouse of the UK economy.” But the research, she further added, shows our lack of stability is having a negative impact on confidence, and potential currency fluctuations over the next six months could prove to be a significant barrier going into 2017.

The December 2016 economic statistics thus serve as a reminder that much support can still be given to business owners, as well as for companies they’ve created. And it’s not the only area proving to be a headache for the UK – in a literal sense.

Find out what else our December 2016 economic statistics roundup uncovered

Image: Shutterstock

UK business owners seem to be struggling for motivation in the face of their own emotional and physical health, Haines Watts has found. Lost time with families also throws a disappointing spanner in the works, with some 4m Brits working on average 43.6 hours a week.

It’s what former TUC general secretary John Monks months ago described as a national disgrace – “Our long hours working culture leads to stress, ill health and family strains” – and the research from Haines Watts suggests much still needs to be done given that in the modern era business owners are now often pushed to breaking point.

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Only four percent of those taking part in the research claimed their work-life balance was tipped towards life, with 59 per cent saying it went the other way. Our December 2016 economic statistics also reveal that the majority of business owners admit they sometimes “wish they were doing something else”.

Of this, Michael Davidson, regional managing partner at Haines Watts, said: “This love-hate relationship with their job is damaging the health and wellbeing of UK business owners, not to mention their personal relationships. Over half find their positions emotionally exhausting, with 52 per cent suggesting family seemed to be the only battery charger that boosted them to full speed once more.”

This lack of motivation, and contrasting need to strive for work in fear of loss of a job, is a great indication of why we’re losing so much sleep. In fact, more than a third of the population catches less than six hours of sleep a night – costing Britain £40bn a year according to think tank Rand.

“The average company is probably not aware of the issues around sleep deprivation,” explained Marco Hafner, the lead of author of Rand’s sleep study. “It should become a normal part of the office – for instance having a nap room. Small companies might not have the facilities, but there are other things employers can do, like getting sleep into the culture of the company.”

While scientists at Surrey University unveiled that over 700 genes in your body alter if you sleep less than six hours a night, VitalityHealth also suggested in a recent statement that people who sleep less than this lose nearly four additional days of productive time each year.

The research comes at a time when Office for National Statistics figures still show low productivity rates across the UK, as well as the continuing struggle to match the productivity levels of G7 counterparts – recently brought to light once more in a December report entitled The Power of Productivity.