The latest Lloyds Business Barometer shows that the vaccine rollout has helped drive business confidence to its highest point in a year.

The analysis shows that overall UK business confidence rose for a second consecutive month in March. Firms’ confidence increased by 13 points to 15%, the highest reading since February 2020, before coronavirus was confirmed as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

UK firms’ economic optimism also increased by 15 points to 17%, while confidence in their own business prospects jumped 10 points to 12%.

In fact, every UK region and nation reported an increase in overall confidence during March, with most reporting a double-digit rise month-on-month. The North East (1% to 26%), West Midlands (3% to 27%) and East of England (-8% to 12%) reported the largest increases.

Paul Gordon, Managing Director for SME and Mid Corporates, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “We have completed a full circle since lockdown began in March 2020 and it is uplifting to see businesses portraying confidence for the months ahead. The regions have reported a tremendous result in confidence, especially England which is positive across the board.”

“In the sectors, the uptick in confidence for manufacturing is driven by strong trading prospects, while in retail, there is an anticipation that pent-up demand will drive consumption when restrictions are lifted. The months ahead will play a pivotal role in charting the course for the UK’s recovery and we remain by the side of businesses as they go along on this journey.”

Hann-Ju Ho, Senior Economist, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “It’s been a year since the first lockdown and the surge in confidence this month tells us firms are increasingly confident about economic recovery. ”

“The broadly positive outlook is driven by steady vaccine deployment, the roadmap out of lockdown and the extension of government support measures. It will be interesting to see whether the momentum for stronger business optimism is sustained in the months ahead.”