Business confidence increased for the first time since the start of the pandemic in February, according to new research.
The latest Lloyds Bank Business Barometer found confidence increased by nine percentage points to two per cent last month.
It was the first return to positive territory since March 2020 when the very first national lockdown began, although confidence remains below pre-Covid levels.
Hiring intentions remained in negative territory but this metric was the least negative it had been since last March.
Read more: Vaccine rollout boosts SME confidence
There were some indications that wage freezes may be thawing, with just 26 per cent of firms expecting to make no pay increases in the coming year, down two points since January.
Firms’ intentions to increase prices for their goods and services were the highest for nearly a year, with 28 per cent expecting an increase.
“The uplift in business confidence and its entry into positive territory after nearly a year suggests that firms are cautiously pinning their hopes on economic revival in the future and the continued success of the vaccine rollout,” Hann-Ju Ho, senior economist at Lloyds Bank commercial banking, said.
“In the coming weeks, announcements in the Budget and prospects of an easing of lockdown restrictions will hopefully help to bolster the recovery in business confidence as the economy starts to reopen.”