Business sentiment at highest since 2009

Survey shows business leaders are at their most confident in over three years

Ibec economist Fergal O'Brien who has called for no more employee taxes.    Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Ibec economist Fergal O'Brien who has called for no more employee taxes. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Mon, Mar 25, 2013, 15:30

Business confidence improved “significantly” at the start of 2013, a new survey shows, with the majority of indicators climbing to the highest levels since the survey began in 2009.

According to the IBEC Business Sentiment Survey for Q1 2013, sales and order book indicators point towards growth, and one in four managers indicated that they would be hiring new employees in the coming quarter.

The perception of the overall business environment by chief executives responding to the survey was at an all-time high, at close to neutral, while the employee numbers index was in positive territory for the first time. One in four managers indicated that they would increase employee numbers in the coming quarter, up from one in five at the end of 2012.

“The improvement in confidence is predominantly due to recovery in the domestic economy. Consumer spending and business investment made a positive contribution to growth in the second half of last year and CEOs expect this trend to continue into 2013. The Irish economy is clearly re-balancing and it is very positive to see the sentiment readings for both domestic and export activity in positive territory in the first quarter of this year,” IBEC chief economist Fergal O'Brien said.

On the employment outlook, Mr O’Brien said that it now appears that “sustained job creation” is taking hold in the exporting sectors.

“Last year saw an increase of 8,000 in the number of private sector employees. Given the positive reading from our employment index, which correlates well with the official labour market data from the CSO, we should see the trend of jobs growth continue and strengthen during 2013,” he said, adding that employment growth would be assisted by no further tax increases.

“Irish workers are already taxed enough and there should be no further tax increases beyond those already announced. Tax increases were necessary due to the pressure on the public finances, but they should now end,” Mr O'Brien said.