BUSINESSES across the region experienced a general decline in performance and confidence during the final quarter of 2023, research has shown.

But many firms have voiced optimism for the early part of this year.

In its latest quarterly economic survey, West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce said pay settlements, inflation and interest rates were key external pressures facing businesses.

Sales, both domestically and internationally, had declined and more than a third of companies in the manufacturing sector reported decreasing activity.

However, businesses remain optimistic about profits at the start of 2024 and few anticipate having to cut jobs.

Mark Casci, head of policy at West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, says: "Whilst a decline in sales and investment activity is naturally a serious cause for concern, the outlook on profitability gives me grounds to remain sanguine.

"I speak to hundreds of businesses every month and although there are of course significant challenges to trading, I have yet to detect a hint of nihilism."