Firms all around the UK are being particularly vigilant at present, particularly concerning signs that the economy is either worsening or getting better. After all, trends such as the rate of business failures and so on have a huge impact on enterprises. If they extend trade credit to organisations that subsequently go out of business, they can end up facing major cashflow problems. In the worst cases, they may be rendered unable to carry on operating. Thankfully, enterprises can now make use of superb company credit reports, including online credit reports, to help them avoid such problems.Indeed, such information may prove especially valuable over coming months. According to new research produced by a think tank based in the north-west of England, the year ahead will be tough for many organisations in the Greater Manchester area. New Economy, which was created in 2009 and aims to promote economic growth and prosperity in the region, claimed that 2012 will be a year of “all-round challenges” for businesses.Its latest quarterly economic outlook suggested that unemployment will rise in the region this year and the number of business failures will outstrip start-ups. This may serve as a cause for concern for firms that extend trade credit as a means of encouraging custom.However, on a more positive note, the think tank predicted that conditions will start to improve and there will be jobs growth in 2013.Responding to the figures, Baron Frankal, director of economic strategy at New Economy, said: “There has been a substantial increase in unemployment since the start of the recession, which has had a major impact upon our residents, but it is nothing like the rise seen in the early 1980s recession when unemployment more than doubled.”The current figure is also lower than at comparable times in the cycle during both the early 1970s and early 1990s recessions. There is no single reason for this but evidence suggests labour hoarding by employers; a decline in the number of hours worked; and a decline in real wages, thereby reducing pressure for employers to make redundancies. This of course is the same wage restraint that is holding back domestic demand in Greater Manchester households.”On a more positive note for the area, the quarterly outlook report pointed to the fact that Manchester Airport has revealed an increase in its passenger numbers, which rose from 1.638 million in October 2010 to 1.683 million during the same month last year. This was a 2.8 per cent annual rise. Also, hotel occupancy in Manchester city centre has reached new heights, with year-on-year occupancy rates up from 80.3 per cent in November 2010 to 84 per cent in November 2011.The economic picture around the UK differs markedly, with some areas experiencing far tougher conditions than others. It is therefore vital that company credit reports, including online credit reports, are sensitive to these differences. Thankfully, the quality of these provisions is higher now than ever before, meaning firms can rest assured that, as long as they choose their provider carefully, they can benefit from highly accurate and thorough information.