Jobbing Umbrella Company Employees seeking new contracting assignments in 2014 may well find that their next contract is with a small- or medium-sized enterprise. According to a new poll of 2,250 SMEs across seven EU markets, SMEs in the UK are more confident about expanding staff headcounts and capital expenditure (capex) over the next 12 months than any of their European neighbours.

The latest European SME Capex Barometer from GE Capital covered the first quarter of 2014 and found that UK SMEs were less concerned about the health of the economy than their European counterparts and plan to create in excess of 660,000 new jobs and contracts over the coming year ‒ 26% more than they had planned at the start of last year. They also intend to increase capex investment over the same period by 12%, taking the total to £58,200 per company on average.

Whereas in Q1 2013 slightly over half of the UK SMEs polled (52%) expressed confidence about the future while 19% were pessimistic, one year later the balance has shifted: 63% of respondents are now positive about the future and only 9% negative. In 2013 40% cited uncertainty as an obstacle to investment; however, in 2014 the figure has tumbled to under one-quarter (23%).

GE Capital UK’s chief executive, Ilaria del Beato, said: “UK SMEs appear to have reached a crucial tipping point in their willingness to invest for growth and hire new staff. This is a true measure of economic recovery and points to promising future growth potential as greater investment should help boost productivity.”

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