Businesses across West Cheshire and North Wales indicated a second successive quarter of growth in terms of sales and orders.

But despite this, in the latest quarterly economic survey, levels remain below those in the first quarter of 2017.

One hundred and 29 businesses from the region took part in the chamber’s survey, representing more than 7,900 employees.

Growth in home sales and orders continued its recovery after the dip that was seen during Q2 17 and is now marginally below its level in Q1 17.

Export orders for West Cheshire and North Wales have risen to the highest level in 12 months and above the average for the North West.

But businesses have indicated that export sales fell slightly during Q4 17.

Business confidence has also recovered with confidence in turnover and profitability returning to similar levels seen during Q2 17, moving above the average for the North West.

Employment intentions for the quarter remained relatively unchanged with a slight increase in the number of businesses expecting to recruit over the next three months.

Investment in training has risen sharply to the highest level since Q2 15.

After the virtually flat year in recruitment intentions this could indicate that businesses in the region are seeking to invest more in their current staff than recruiting new ones.

Concerns around external factors showed a mixed picture during Q4 17 with interest rates, exchange rates and inflation seeing an increase in concern while business rates, competition and corporation tax concerns easing.

Colin Brew, chief executive officer of West Cheshire and North Wakes Chamber of Commerce, said: “These results indicate that businesses in West Cheshire and North Wales finished 2017 in broadly a similar position to the start of it, after an easing in growth and confidence during Q2 and Q3.

“However, there are some concerning signs as 83 per cent of businesses that tried to recruit staff over the last three months reported recruitment difficulties, the highest level since Q4 15.

“These difficulties may be the reason for the high level of investment in training which finished on a two-and-a-half-year high, showing that businesses are trying to overcome recruitment problems by investing in their staff.

“Labour and skills shortages are set to be the biggest potential drag anchor on business in 2018 since ultimately it is people that make businesses work.

“This must be the year Government delivers clarity, leadership and investment in people and infrastructure. Kick-starting growth, and boosting wages and prosperity for all, depends on this.”