The latest Natwest West Midlands purchasing manager’s index found output was strengthened by a faster rise in new orders, which also led firms to raise employment for the first time since last July.

Reduced political uncertainty and plans for increased investment encouraged greater optimism for the year ahead, with confidence reaching its highest level since April 2017.

Stronger demand growth also led firms to set higher output charges, with the rate of inflation quickening to an eight-month high amid a sharper rise in overall input costs.

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