A quarter of Waterford businesses which participated in an online economic survey will employ less people at the end of this year than they did at the end of 2007.
That was one of the gloomier findings of a survey published by Inistioge-based Market Dynamics last week, which included the involvement of 400 south east-based organisations.
The findings of the survey revealed that over half its participants believe they will not meet “the fundamental business goal of improving turnover on 2007”.
The service sector has emerged as the most optimistic while manufacturing, a sector long identified by commentators as being in terminal decline, is also more positive than might have been expected despite recent closures.
“In the current climate of rising oil prices and almost daily reports of problems in the housing market it is not surprising to see that so few businesses expect to do better this year than last,” said Market Dynamics Manager Director John Gilsenan.
“However, the findings are not entirely negative. While about a quarter of firms expect a drop in employment levels, about one in five plans to increase hiring. Indeed, finding suitable staff was noted among the biggest challenges by many businesses.”
Regarding Waterford, a third of surveyed businesses believe that turnover will also drop in 2008 while 37 per cent anticipate a dip in profits.
Interestingly, those surveyed in Waterford were placed behind Carlow and South Tipperary in assessing the importance of the motorway to Dublin, a finding at odds with the case put by Waterford Chamber.
Again, at seemingly at odds with the mood as relayed to this newspaper in recent years, “Waterford businesses also ascribe least importance to improved rail links”.
Not surprisingly, 80 per cent of surveyed organisations believe that a University of the South East “would be either important or very important to the economy of the South East region”.
Subdividing that question further, 68 per cent of respondents felt that such an academic facility would benefit their own county, while just over a quarter felt it would be of moderate benefit.
In terms of challenges to business, labour costs and increased competition (59 per cent and 52 per cent respectively) were identified by most of the survey’s participants.
Just under 40 per cent of organisations stated difficulty in hiring suitable staff as a “major challenge,” which, according to Market Dynamics “demonstrates that even in a downturn, businesses can be constrained by supply-side factors”.
Some 46 per cent of surveyed construction companies expect to let workers go this year, with 38 per cent of hospitality businesses and 36 per cent of the retail/wholesale sector expressing a similar sentiment.
Broadband access was considered important to 90 per cent of organisations yet 29 per cent of those surveyed described their broadband as “inadequate to meet their requirements”.