It has been reported that two out of five small and medium-sized businesses in the UK plan to hire, on average, six new employees before the end of March, following a promising start to the year.

This is according to the latest quarterly Barclaycard Payments SME Barometer.

The news comes as just over 56 per cent of SMEs report a rise in earnings in the last quarter of 2021 against the same period in 2020. This year has started positively for many SMEs despite concerns around economic uncertainties, with 58 per cent predicting an increase in revenue this quarter compared to the same period last year.

On average, businesses forecast a year-on-year increase in Q1 turnover by 13.5 per cent. The retail sector expects one of the largest increases, followed by transport and distribution and financial services firms. This is likely due to the impact of Coronavirus settling and SMEs feeling more confident to invest or seek investment.

The research, which polled 577 senior staff working in UK SMEs, found that overall business optimism is beginning to build. However, confidence in the broader economy is less pronounced, with those reporting a neutral sentiment (39.6 per cent) outweighing those who are optimistic (23.8 per cent).

As a result of the challenging economic backdrop, SMEs have a mixed view on how the pandemic and the domestic economy will impact consumer spending throughout the year. 41.7 per cent of SMEs expect spending to fall.

Colin O’Flaherty, Head of Small Business at Barclaycard Payments, said: “Small and medium-sized businesses have had a positive start to the year and it’s encouraging to see so many seeking to add to their workforce. SMEs are also remaining resilient by continuing to focus on areas within their control, such as by improving their operating models to overcome the hangover to supply chain disruption which peaked at the end of last year.

“The coming months will no doubt present continued challenges for British SMEs and the impact of rising costs will remain front of mind. Businesses will need to call on the same spirit for innovation and specialised support that has propelled them through the last two years.”