The pace of growth among UK firms exporting goods overseas has slowed in recent months amid uncertainty over the economic recovery, a business group has said.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said a survey of over 1,000 exporters found that one in five expected to cut jobs in the coming months.
Continued uncertainty because of the eurozone debt crisis, and the fragility of the UK's economic recovery meant British exporters were reticent to take on more staff, with recruitment plans said to be "anaemic".
John Longworth, director general of the BCC, said: "The UK's exporters are still performing well, and the results of the trade confidence index show the trend of growth in exports continues.
"However, uncertainty around the UK's recovery combined with the eurozone crisis, means that growth has slowed in the last quarter. Order books have weakened, confidence in increasing turnover has softened and exporters' desire to expand workforces is muted.
"If we're to see the rebalancing of the economy that we need for recovery, British businesses must be encouraged to take risks and seek out new markets, particularly those outside Europe. The Chancellor must use his autumn statement to deliver confidence to exporters, and encourage those looking to trade abroad for the first time to take the leap."
Phil Couchman, chief executive of DHL Express, which helped with the research, added: "The results highlight that we cannot underestimate the challenges ahead for exporters, particularly in light of the serious problems facing the eurozone, which remains a major trading partner for small businesses in the UK.
"Steps must be taken to support those looking to target overseas markets, particularly small and medium sized enterprises, who are less able to ride the trends of the economic cycle than their larger counterparts."Suggest a correction