Irish business activity levels have weakened and are expected to decline further by the end of the year, according to an IIB survey.

The business sentiment survey, which was due to be published today, shows two out of five companies report a fall in employment levels.

However, it also shows that one in nine companies are continuing to hire staff, confirming the trend observed in its last report during the summer that circumstances vary widely between sectors and firms.

Of the companies surveyed, just one in 10 said they thought Budget 2009 should focus exclusively on public finances.

The majority said Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan should also support the economy.

One in three companies thought the priority should be given to support the broad economic outlook while the majority, 55%, felt this month's Budget should strike a balance between fiscal prudence and supporting activity.

Roughly two out of three firms said that the credit crunch was translating into weaker demand for goods and services, showing a deepening of the trend observed in the summer.