Optimism about the economic recovery is waning, according to the latest survey by the group representing small and medium-sized businesses.

Despite positive recent statistics from the Central Bank, ESRI and the Exchequer, there are falls in 11 of the 12 key indicators in the ISME Quarterly Business Trends Survey for the first three months of 2015.

However, the retail trade shows a more optimistic outlook with all their 10 indicators being positive.

It went from being very negative at end of 2014, where nine of 10 indicators showed a decrease. Many of the retail indicators are at their highest in seven years.

The survey was conducted in the last week of March and first week of April, with 932 SME firms taking part.

Some of the key findings were:

* Business confidence and expectations fell from 50% to 39% and 65% to 57% respectively.

* Profitability expectations were down from 34% to 25% after two quarterly increases.

* Current sales and sales expectations have fallen, despite the positive results from retailers. The overall figures are down due to the effect of reduced sales from manufacturers and services sectors.

ISME chief executive Mark Fielding said: "Despite the exceptionally strong net exports, mainly from the FDI sector, which on GDP figures alone made Ireland the fastest growing economy in the EU in 2014, the domestic SME sector continues to struggle out of the recession.

"The better macroeconomic environment has boosted tax revenues and helped achieve fiscal targets while the quantitative easing has devalued the euro, giving a boost to exports, the reality for SMEs is that the recovery is glacially slow and patchy.

"Today’s figures confirm once again the duality of the economy and the danger of measuring everything against GDP figures.

"The continuous whine from election-facing Government TDs pushing for wage increases, both private and public, is slowing down job creation and the small increase in take-home pay from Budget 2015 is yet to entice consumers, in any great numbers, to spend.

"Retail figures are, however, the most optimistic in years and point to an expectation that consumer."