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Small Business Concern as Economic Uncertainty Increases


  • Business Confidence falls 27%
  • 48% of businesses expect to increase wage rates of employees
  • 63% of businesses report an increase to their motor insurance
  • Between 48% and 52% report an increase in their Public and Employer Liability Insurance, respectively

The results of the ISME Quarterly Business Trends Survey for Q3’19 was released yesterday (21st November) with 9 out of 14 confidence indicators showing declines, approximately on par with previous quarter. While employment trends are as expected, Business Confidence took a sharp downward turn, decreasing by 27% in this quarter. The three predominant SME concerns for this quarter were reported as Brexit at 60%, economic uncertainty at 54% and insurance costs at 31%.

The Trends Report also captures data on employee pay, broadband services and business and motor insurance costs in the SME sector. The report notes the continued rise in insurance premiums and the latest pay expectations in the SME sector.

Commenting on the results, ISME CEO, Neil McDonnell said:

“There are no real surprises in business sentiment this quarter. It has declined markedly. Given the general direction of Brexit (towards a UK outside the customs union), global economic uncertainty, and the complete stall in insurance reform, small businesses are battering down the hatches..”

This survey was conducted in the last week of September, with 270 SME respondents, 58% of whom employ less than 10; 30% employ between 11 and 49; and the remaining 12% employ between 50. Geographically, 33% are from Dublin; 53% are spread across the rest of the country; and 13% have multiple sites.

ISME will launch its Q4’19 Survey in December to its members and the SME community.

Trends Report

Overall Confidence Indicators

The Q3’19 Business Trends Quarterly survey showed 9 out of 14 confidence indicators yielding declining results, a similar trend to the previous quarter in 2018. There was a decrease in Business Confidence by 27% and a further decrease in Business Expectations by 17%, while Business Environment had a decrease of 9%. The Current Employment confidence indictor had a nominal decrease from 19% to 13%. Future Employment had significant decrease of 16% from 17% to 1%. Current Sales have increased nominally from 17% to 20% while Sales Expectations are down 43%. Current Investment and Future Investment are down 11% and 12% respectively. Current Exports decreased a further 1% while Export Expectations remained the same at 6%. Economic uncertainty increased from 14% to 54%, while Brexit remains the highest concern at 60%.













Q3’19 Business Trends Quarterly Survey tracked Key Indicators in Manufacturing, Retail and Services. As well as Pay Expectations of Employees and Owner Managers, Insurance Costs including Motor, Public Liability and Employer Liability. The Survey also tracked  broadband services and the biggest concerns of SMEs.

Download the full Business Trends Survey or view it here.
















  • ISME should be referred to as the Irish SME Association
  • This survey was conducted in the last week of September, covering the third quarter of 2019.  

For further information, please contact Sheema Lughmani, T: 01 6622755, E: [email protected]