Private sector in a deeper downturn as lockdown stifles client demand

The private sector in Scotland sunk into a deeper downturn in January, as lockdown measure stifled client demand and led some businesses to close temporarily.

The seasonally adjusted headline Royal Bank of Scotland Business Activity Index – a measure of combined manufacturing and service sector output – posted 33.3 in January, down from 47.3 in December, to signal a rapid drop in private sector output.

The latest reading – excluding the first lockdown period of March to May last year – was the lowest since the index began in 1998.

New work fell at a similarly sharp pace, with the decline also the most marked for eight months. As a result, companies made further cuts to staff numbers.

Despite the challenging conditions, sentiment improved during January, with business confidence the highest since early-2014 on the back of the continuing vaccine rollout, as well as hopes of looser restrictions and a

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