By Claire West

Job losses in the SME sector show no signs of abating over the next six months, according to new research.

The latest quarterly survey from Clifton Asset Management (CAM), which provides specialist financial and strategic advice to SMEs, reveals that 25 per cent of firms have been forced to shed jobs this year — down 1 per cent on the previous survey.

And the CAM study, carried out among 1,000 small business owners across the country, shows that 14 per cent are planning job cuts in the second half of the year, again virtually unchanged on last time (15 per cent).

The research comes at a time when unemployment is at its highest level since 1994, and with the Coalition Government unveiling wide-ranging public spending cuts.

“The fact that the rate of job cuts among SMEs shows no real sign of falling away reinforces the view of two-thirds of those who took part in our survey, that a fully-fledged recovery is still at least 12 months away,” said CAM director Anthony Carty.

“Small and medium-sized businesses must return to good health before the UK can pull itself fully out of recession. While it is not the private sector which will bear the brunt of the cuts over the next few years, many SMEs have a strong business relationship on the public sector and will thereby be severely affected.

“It is also striking that the regional disparities which have been evident in our survey for some time still show no signs of closing, with 11 per cent of firms in the South East planning to shed staff, compared with 18 per cent of West Midlands firms.”