Businesses across the island of Ireland continue to defer decisions and hold back on investment against the backdrop of Brexit according to the latest indicators from InterTradeIreland.
The latest all-island Business Monitor reveals that only 11% of business planned to increase levels of staff training in Q1 2019, compared to 17% in the same period last year, while only 4% considered upgrading or changing premises.
Almost a third of larger companies (31%) say that Brexit is having a negative impact on investment decisions.
Of concern, it said, was that the number of businesses planning to invest in innovation remains low, with just 6% of firms planning to spend on research and development over the next year.
The latest findings also point to the specific vulnerabilities of smaller businesses, with 34% of micro firms recording profit margins of less than 5%.
Such small margins, it warned, leave those firms particularly vulnerable to external shocks that cause even minor cost rises.
Employment , too, remains static, with 89% of firms neither increasing or reducing staff in the past quarter.
There is a clear link between exporting and performance. Exporters have better outcomes across a range of indicators including turnover, employment and productivity. However, the latest figures point to a slowing down in the performance of cross-border traders, with only 18% reporting a rise in sales in Q1 2019, compared to 26% per cent in the previous quarter.
Nearly half (44%) say they have been impacted by Brexit.
Aidan Gough, InterTradeIreland’s strategy and policy director, said: “While the wider economy on the island remains resilient, there are further signs of difficulties generated by the uncertainty around Brexit.”