A new survey shows that telecommunications has overtaken housing as a key priority for infrastructure investment as remote working continues for many during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest Bank of Ireland Economic Pulse showed a reading of 65.1 in September and it has now recovered almost 60% of its Covid-related losses. 

The index, which combines the results of the Consumer and Business Pulses, was up 5.8 on last month but down 11.1 on a year ago.

Bank of Ireland said the improvement in the Economic Pulse this month comes on foot of a rebound in the Business Pulse after a dip last month. 

Sentiment rose in all four sectors - industry, services, retail and construction - though Brexit was back on firms' radar as the end of the transition period approaches and the talks on the future UK-EU trade relationship floundered. 

But for households, the heightened uncertainty on this front added to growing concerns about the virus and kept the Consumer Pulse at a low ebb in September.

Dr Loretta O'Sullivan, group chief economist for Bank of Ireland, said the Economic Pulse was back on track this month and has now recovered almost 60% of its Covid-related losses. 

But the economist noted that the underlying picture was mixed.

"For firms, it was a case of moving on from last month's re-opening setbacks and getting back to business, whereas consumers remained cautious in the face of the resurgence in the virus," she said. 

"Telecommunications pipped housing to the post this month as the priority area businesses identified for infrastructure investment, reflecting the ongoing pattern of working from home and emphasising the importance of the National Broadband Plan," she added.

The Business Pulse came in at 68.2 in September, up 7.3 on last month but 8.4 lower than a year ago. 

All four sectoral pulses posted higher readings this month, with firms generally reporting an improvement in order books / sales and hiring. 

Bank of Ireland said that with 'wet’ pubs getting the go-ahead to re-open, much of the economy is now someway operational again - local lockdowns aside.

It said that physical distancing requirements and other guidelines have forced firms to move some activities online however, while working from home where possible remains a key part of government advice. 

"Telecommunications infrastructure has come under pressure as a result, with almost a third of the firms surveyed in September identifying it as the priority area for public investment in their region," Bank of Ireland stated.

This month's survey also found that escalating tensions between Downing Street and the EU are a concern for businesses, with three in four firms expecting the fallout from the UK's decision to leave the EU to negatively impact the local economy in their region over the next 12 months.

That figure rises to four in five for Connacht and Ulster based firms.

Bank of Ireland also said that at 52.8 in September, the Consumer Pulse was effectively flat on the month but down 21.6 on a year ago. 

The bank said that households' take on their own finances and on the current and future state of the economy was little changed this month and remained subdued on the whole amid the resurgence in the virus. 

"With the lifting of the Midlands lockdown, households in the Rest of Leinster were a little less downbeat compared with last month though, whereas households in Dublin and Connacht/Ulster were gloomier as the prospect of tighter restrictions loomed large for the former and the souring mood music around Brexit rattled the latter," Bank of Ireland added.