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How are small businesses feeling about the next few months?

Pretty good, a survey reveals, with 48 per cent expecting the overall business environment to be ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

Image: business via hutter

BUSINESS SENTIMENT IS continuing to improve among SMEs in Ireland.

A new survey from the Small Firms Association (SFA) has revealed that 48 per cent of respondents expect the overall business environment in the next three months to be either ‘good or ‘very good’.

It also shows a 7 per cent increase from Q2 2013 in the number of businesses who rate themselves as “good” or “very good”.

The figure now stands at 49 per cent.

One-in-five businesses are hoping to increase their employee numbers this year.

However, director of SFA Patricia Callan said while the figure is positive, “nearly 7% of firms will reduce employee numbers in 2014 as business costs and low consumer demand remain challenges for many firms.”

“The survey shows that business conditions are steadily improving and points towards business and economic growth over the coming quarters. The weak performance of the wider European economy, however, remains a concern,” she said.

Other survey results include:

  • 77 per cent of firms maintained or improved their profitability,
  • Domestic market sales increased for 36 per cent while 30% of companies who export saw an increase in sales,
  • 91 per cent had maintained or expanded their customer base,
  • 38 per cent felt more confident about their business than three months ago, 49 per cent felt their business was the same, and 11 per cent were less confident.

“Government needs to assist small firms to build on the improving prospects by creating a business environment conducive to small business growth,” Callan said.

“Policies need to be put in place by government that will assist this vital sector drive growth in the wider economy.”

Employment sentiment

A separate survey by Manpower found that staffing levels are expected to grow in eight of 11 industry sectors, and four out of five regions in Q3 this year.

The weakest labour market is expected in the Public & Social sector, declining by 7 per cent year-over-year, while most optimistic outlook of +10 per cent is reported by Mining & Quarrying sector.

Ulster has the most optimistic hiring plans, with the Dublin labour market remaining weak.

Read: Three out of four SMEs don’t ‘shop around’ for finance >

More: Will the ECB’s new €400 billion lending plan filter down to Irish SMEs? >

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Nicky Ryan

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