Optimism about the business situation in professional services is rising despite a slowing in the pace of recovery, according Confederation of British Industry figures published today. The CBI Service Sector Survey showed 44% of firms in the sector saying they are are more optimistic than they were three months ago; only 13% were less optimistic.

Meanwhile, business volumes expanded for a fifth successive quarter, with 33% of firms reporting volumes were up compared with the previous quarter, and 17% saying they were down. The balance +16% is one point down on three months ago, but the survey showed more robust growth to be expected next quarter.

Growth in numbers employed in the business and professional services sector – which includes legal, accountancy and marketing firms – reached its highest rate in nearly seven years. The availability of professional staff as a factor likely to limit expansion in the year ahead was cited by 45% of firms, the most since May 2008.

Katja Hall, deputy director general of the CBI, said: ‘It’s encouraging that our service sector firms continue to feel upbeat, especially when looking ahead to the next quarter. However, skills shortages mean it is increasingly hard for firms to find and hire the right people. It’s important that business and government address this issue together, to put the economy of the future on the right footing.’

The Service Sector Survey was conducted between 25 July and 13 August, receiving replies from 136 business and professional service firms.