The Welsh economy is showing signs of steady growth according to the latest Welsh Business Barometer, published today by South & Mid Wales Chambers of Commerce and the West Cheshire & North Wales Chamber of Commerce.

The Welsh Business Barometer for the third quarter of 2017 shows improving growth in both the UK and export markets with sales and orders up. Confidence is also up slightly with more businesses expecting profits and turnover to increase and firms are increasing their workforce.

Concern has however been expressed over the number of businesses who are finding it difficult to recruit staff, mainly due to the skills gap in Wales and the uncertainty over the future of EU citizens living in the UK.

With more than half of businesses having recruited during the last quarter, 70 per cent of those responding said that they had difficulties finding the staff they need. This is the highest this figure has been for a number of years. The biggest recruitment challenge is in finding skilled manual or technical staff, with a significant number of companies also indicating that they had difficulties in recruiting professional or managerial level staff.

Liz Maher, president of the South & Mid Wales Chambers of Commerce, who also runs a business based in Langstone near Newport, said:

“It’s good news that the Welsh economy is continuing to grow, particularly with the uncertainty following the general election and regarding Brexit at the moment, but the news that so many of our members are finding it difficult to recruit is however worrying for future growth prospects.

“The skills gap in Wales has been of concern to the Chamber of Commerce for several years. Yes, we’ve seen Welsh unemployment fall over the last year to be the same as the UK average, but with businesses still wanting to expand the lack of people with the required skills is holding back the ability for them to do so.

“Particularly concerning of course is that the roles that businesses can’t fill are higher paid skilled and managerial roles. It is the people in these jobs who are the backbone of our manufacturing industries and will drive forward growth within businesses.

“There is unfortunately no overnight fix to the problem. It takes time to train young people up to the skill level needed. The Welsh Government’s new apprenticeship scheme is greatly welcomed and the findings of the Welsh Business Barometer show the need for more apprenticeships, particularly at higher level.

“What can ease the situation in the short term though is an agreement over the future of EU citizens in the UK. We’ve seen reports over the summer that the number of EU citizens in the UK has started to fall. This is putting additional pressure on businesses in some sectors.”