Northern Rivers businesses optimistic about year ahead

A SURGE in business confidence on the back of growing revenues is helping to drive jobs growth in the local economy, according to the latest survey by the Northern Rivers arm of the NSW Business Chamber.

The December 2015 Business Conditions Survey shows that local business perceptions of the state's economic performance is at its highest level since July 2009, NSW Business Chamber Northern Rivers regional manager John Murray says.

There are also significant improvements in profit and sales revenue.

"Importantly, the survey suggests that the steady growth in business confidence is translating into employment growth," Mr Murray said.

"Nineteen per cent of Northern Rivers businesses reported that they increased staff numbers in the final quarter of 2015, up from 7% in September 2015, while 19% of respondents said they expected to hire additional staff in coming months."

More than 100 local businesses took part in the survey that revealed a lift in the sales revenue in the December quarter, as 41% of respondents reported an increase in sales revenue compared to 31% in the September quarter.

A quarter of local businesses increased capital spending late last year, up slightly from 23% in the previous quarter; however, a further 27% of businesses expected to increase capital spending in coming months.

"Northern Rivers businesses are optimistic about the year ahead with 46% of respondents expecting the NSW economy to strengthen in coming months; confidence no doubt bolstered by the material improvements in business performance recorded in the final quarter of 2015," Mr Murray said.

"Many businesses also predicted a bumper start to 2016 with 44% of respondents expecting sales revenue to increase, which is consistent with the statewide average of 45%.

"Addressing business inefficiencies and improving productivity looks to be the key focus for Northern Rivers businesses as we head into the year, with 48% of respondents identifying this as a key priority, followed closely by reducing operating costs, energy costs, errors and wastage.

"Overall, the news for business in the Northern Rivers is positive but it cannot be assumed that the good times will last forever.

"Ensuring a competitive and efficient tax system, reducing red tape and reforming workplace relations are no less important now than they were in past quarters."

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