Bank of Ireland's latest Economic Pulse survey shows that business confidence here was higher in April than it was before the Covid-19 pandemic as the vaccine rollout and the easing of restrictions is giving cause for optimism.

Today's report also shows that consumer confidence increased over the month.

The overall Bank of Ireland Economic Pulse came in at in 85.4 in April. The index, which combines the results of the consumer and business pulses, was 11.8 higher than in March and up 51.1 on last April's all-time low.

At 88.9 in April, the Business Pulse was 14.3 higher than last month and up 59.3 on a year ago.

Bank of Ireland said the improvement in sentiment was broad based, with all four sectoral pulses - industry, services, retail and construction - reaching higher readings this month amid a modest easing of public health restrictions and the expectation of more to come.

53% of firms said they are anticipating a pick-up in business activity in the near term, while almost a quarter expect to employ more people.

Three in ten also also indicated that they are planning on increasing basic pay over the next 12 months, though the majority are set to stay on hold for the time being as they focus on restoring profitability.

Bank of Ireland's Consumer Pulse was also higher, rising for a third month running in April to reach 71.7, up 18.5 on a year ago.

The bank said that households were more positive about the economy and their own finances this month. Those saying that they are holding out on spending eased to 42% from 61% during the first lockdown.

The share of consumers which consider it a good time purchase big ticket items like furniture and electrical goods also rose to 28%.

Meanwhile, the Housing Pulse stood at 107.9 in April 2021, up 10.6 on March and 82.9 higher than last April's low.

Bank of Ireland said that households in all regions raised their expectations for future house price gains this month, taking the index to its highest level since the autumn of 2018.

36% of home owners also plan to spend a large sum on home improvements over the coming year. Bank of Ireland said this was a series high that likely reflects a combination of increased savings and the view that remote or hybrid working will be a feature of the post-Covid landscape for some.

Dr Loretta O'Sullivan, Group Chief Economist for Bank of Ireland, said that both the consumer and business mood brightened this month, helped by the baby steps being taken to restart the economy and society and the expectation of a more widespread re-opening as we head into the summer.

She noted that firms were behind the wheel driving the improvement in the headline index in April.

"Businesses were also pretty upbeat about growth prospects further out, with three in five having ambitions to expand in the next one to three years, which is in line with the pre-Covid figure," the economist added.