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Economic commentary

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Economic commentary

Our bi-monthly update on global, UK and Scottish economic trends and performance, drawn from a wide range of economic indicators and commentaries. Published November 2019.

Global economy weakens, UK and Scottish economies fragile

The IMF has downgraded its forecasts for almost every major advanced country, and its forecast for global growth in 2019 from 3.3% to 3.0%. It cites a slowdown in global manufacturing and rising trade barriers. Growth is projected to pick up to 3.4% in 2020, but this is largely dependent on recoveries in several emerging markets that are currently under strain.

Main factors contributing to the slowdown 
  • Rising trade barriers
  • Brexit uncertainty
  • Political and economic uncertainty

Global economic trends

  • The global economy is now projected to grow at its weakest annual rate in 2019 since the financial crisis
  • Growth in the US, the world’s largest economy, is beginning to soften
  • Growth in China and Japan, the world’s second and third largest economies, is also slowing

Growth forecasts (%)

 

IMF

 

2019

2020

World

3.0

3.4

United States

2.4

2.1

Euro area

1.2

1.4

China

6.1

5.8

Japan

0.9

1.2

United Kingdom

1.2

1.4

 

Table 1 showing global economic growth forecasts. Source: IMF World Economic Outlook, October 2019

 

UK economic trends

  • Growth in the UK in the third quarter of 2019 was 0.3%
  • The latest business surveys continue to suggest a fragile UK economy
  • Employment decreased in the three months to September 

Scottish economic trends

  • The outlook for the Scottish economy remains subdued
  • Private sector activity in Scotland fell for the first time in five months in October
  • Scotland’s unemployment rate rose to 4.0% in the three months to September

 

Figure 1 Summary of headline indicators

Summary of headline indicators

What our customers tell us

We regularly seek feedback on current performance and expectations from our account managed (AM) companies.

Feedback was received from almost 200 companies from August to October 2019.

Turnover, profitability, employment and export performance over the last six months remain positive. 

 

Figure 2 showing forecast increase in company performance over the next 6 months (% of companies)

AM Companies Reporting/Forecasting an Increase in Performance (% of companies, August to October 2019)

Companies expect increased performance across the four indicators (turnover, profitability, exports and employment) over the next six months. However, there has been a decline in the percentage of companies reporting an increase in exports in recent months.

 

Figure 3 showing trends in company performance in last 12 months (% of companies)

Trends in AM Company Performance

 

What all this means for Scottish Enterprise and Scottish businesses

Growth in the global economy is easing and trading conditions are likely to become less favourable for Scottish businesses operating in some export markets, most notably China, the US and Europe, as well as for those selling to the rest of the UK. Slower growth in these markets may impact negatively on Scottish sales, exporters and potential inward investment.

The Scottish economy has weakened over the last few quarters and softness is beginning to appear in the labour market. Survey evidence also highlights that the performance of Scottish businesses continues to be negatively impacted by Brexit uncertainty. Growth in the domestic economy is likely to remain subdued.

In this more challenging environment Scottish businesses will need to take advantage of all opportunities to expand both at home and overseas. Companies should focus their efforts on:

  • Consistent improvements in competitiveness
  • Increasing productivity levels through innovation and investment
  • Continuing to look at exporting market opportunities

Disclaimer

We release Scotland's economic commentary bi-monthly. This commentary reflects our understanding of issues at the time of writing drawn from a wide range of credible and respected sources and should not be taken as Scottish Enterprise policy.

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