Business confidence improves as companies look to better future
More companies expect to hire additional workers over the next three months, according to the latest quarterly economic survey by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce.
The survey, which received over 600 responses from businesses across Northern Ireland, found that 22 per cent expect their workforce to increase compared with just 14 per cent in the last quarter of 2011.
A further 14 per cent expect a decrease in workforce, compared to 18 per cent in the previous quarter. Seventy one per cent were looking for full time staff. Of these, 44 per cent experienced difficulty in finding suitable staff, reporting fulfilling professional/managerial roles as the greatest problem, a long-term issue.
In terms of investment in training this has remained constant since the third quarter of 2011, with 17 per cent reporting it will increase. The percentage reporting a decrease has dropped one per cent to 16 per cent in the current quarter.
Business confidence, according to the survey, has improved. Forty seven per cent expect to see turnover increase, up from 40 per cent in the final quarter of 2011. Those expecting a dip in turnover decreased from 30 per cent at the end of last year to one fifth in the current quarter.
Another encouraging finding is seen in the rise in those expecting profitability to rise this year – up slightly to 36 per cent from 34 per cent at the end of 2011. There’s also been a small rise in companies operating at full capacity – 31 per cent in the current quarter from 29 per cent at the end of last year.
While many companies said they would like to increase prices they were restrained from doing so because of overhead costs. The main business pressures continue to be competition (44%) and taxation (26%). Paying for raw materials remains a significant problem with 43 per cent raising this as a difficulty. In addition, more companies are concerned about finance costs and pay settlements.
Export sales increased slightly from 27 per cent to 31 per cent over the period. Seventy eight per cent said exports had either increased or remained the same. Fewer companies, however, reported that exports had decreased – down from 30 per cent at the end of last year to 22 per cent in the first quarter of 2012.
Ann McGregor, Northern Ireland Chamber Chief Executive, commenting on the latest survey, said:
“After the disappointing results from the last quarter in 2011 it was pleasing to see an improvement in most indicators in the first 3 months of this year. It was particularly good that there was a noticeable improvement in the exporting performance of firms in both the manufacturing and service sector. Overall confidence is up with most firms expecting an improvement in turnover and profitability over the next 12 months. However, the continuing weakness in domestic sales, especially in the manufacturing sector, shows that the economy still faces many challenges.
There was some very good news for Northern Ireland in the budget when the Chancellor announced the Government would devolve to the Northern Ireland Assembly the power to set APD rates for direct long haul flights. We hope to see more devolution of tax varying powers in the near future.”
A copy of the QES report can be downloaded below:Related Files QES Report - Quarter 1 2012