Employers are hiring at the strongest pace since 2007 according to a new survey on business sentiment.

The KBC Bank/Chartered Accountants business sentiment survey suggests Irish businesses generally expect activity levels to continue to pick up and are confident about an improvement in consumer spending.

“This is a fairly strong survey and it’s been growing over the last year,” said Austin Hughes, chief economist with KBC Bank Ireland.

“There’s a sense that on the producer side that things are picking up in the economy, but it’s not like a light that you turn on or off, I think what we’re seeing is a steady improvement in conditions.”

The latest survey shows more than half of respondents reporting an increase in activity in the past quarter – while 12% said business levels had fallen.

The jobs figure are also positive, relatively speaking, though Mr Hughes points out that this is against the backdrop of minimal activity in recent years.

“One in three reported stronger hiring; that is the best result we’ve seen over the last seven years but it also tells you how rotten the jobs market has been over the last while,” he said.

There are plenty of signals of caution in the survey too, he said.

Business hope to see a rise in consumer spending in the near future, but constrained incomes will put pressure on that – which in turn makes it difficult for companies to pass price increases on.
“People don’t have an awful lot more money in their pocket and as a result consumer spending is still lagging behind the recovery in the production side of the economy,” he said.