Employment prospects for the UK’s freelance contracting community and permanent jobseekers alike hinge on economic growth, and a new report suggests that early forecasts of a triple-dip recession may be unduly pessimistic: Britain is on course for an expansion of 0.4% during Q1 2013, despite the 0.3% contraction in the final quarter of 2012.

So says the latest Business Confidence Index from ICAEW/Grant Thornton, which casts significant doubt on forecasts that the UK will slip into a second consecutive quarter of contraction at the start of 2103.

Business confidence appears to be at its highest point since Q2 2011, with overseas demand for goods and services increasing rather than declining as feared. Respondents reported a sales increase of 3.3% over the last year, and most anticipate that this will grow to 4.6% during 2013.

Moreover, the companies taking part in the study reported that they increased their staff numbers by 1% over the course of last year and plan to expand headcounts by 1.5% this year.

ICAEW chief executive Michael Izza cautioned against the self-fulfilling prophecy effect, with too much emphasis on factors such as traditional January blues, bad weather, and the collapse of some big high street names. He said: “There is only one way out of our economic malaise, and that’s to increase our economic output. Such a task isn’t going to be easy, or indeed quick.”

The survey suggests that confidence has spread throughout all economic sectors, including the construction companies roundly battered in 2012. Along with IT and telecommunications, they are expressing renewed confidence as 2013 commences.

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