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UK economic optimism at all-time record high, but fears remain over skills shortage

New research from Grant Thornton's International Business Report (IBR), a survey of more than 3,300 businesses in 45 economies, reveals UK business optimism is at its highest level since the report began in 1992.

Globally all regions report a surge in optimism, despite a slowing of growth in some emerging economies. The data suggests that the recovery is moving onto a more sustainable footing and, with economic uncertainty declining, the hope is that businesses will renew investment in the coming months to ensure long-term growth.

The IBR reveals that UK business optimism has continued to bound ahead from its previous record of 71% in Q4 2013 to 83% in Q1 2014. Confidence in the EU embraces that of the UK which reports an upturn of 37%, up 16% from the previous quarter.

Scott Barnes, CEO of Grant Thornton UK LLP, commented: "It's immensely encouraging that the IBR data for the UK has broken its previous record high for business optimism and provides strong hope that recovery is truly taking hold. Mirroring the uptick in optimism across other parts of the world – particularly the US, China, Japan and Germany – suggests the major global economies are back on track and headed in the right direction, which bodes well for British exporters."

Confidence in the UK's economic growth across the mid-market is supported by raised expectations to increase salaries (76%) and nearly half (47%) of  businesses looking to expand their workforce.  The housing market, a recognised indicator of bourgeoning economy, is increasingly buoyant, reflected in the continued high optimism (87%) in construction and property businesses. 

However, businesses continue to struggle finding the talent to grow their operations. One in five (20%) cites a lack of skilled workers as a constraint on their ability to expand their operations.

Barnes continued:  "It's essential that businesses focus on investing in their people and look to opportunities to encourage new talent into their organisation. Without such measures, it could become there will be a fundamental threat to growth prospects in the future."