- Consumers’ expenditure had continued to contract. There were signs that the pickup in non-food sales in the period immediately after Christmas had been short-lived.
- Investment intentions remained at the weak levels reported in recent months.
- External demand had continued to slow sharply, with the volume of manufactured goods exports now lower than a year earlier.
- Contacts’ concerns over the cost and availability of working capital remained elevated.
- Employment intentions had been scaled back further across all sectors. Average hours had been cut. And permanent staffing levels had also been reduced, with further redundancies expected during early 2009.
- Growth in per capita labour costs had slowed. Respondents to a special survey on pay prospects expected 2009’s wage settlements to be markedly lower than those made during 2008, with many planning pay freezes (see box).
- Annual input and output price inflation had fallen further.
- Inflation in imported finished goods prices remained elevated. So far there had been only tentative signs of pass-through to retail goods prices. There, the picture had continued to be dominated by the depth and persistence of discounting. Looking forward, however, a number of retailers and distributors planned
to raise prices if sterling remained at its current level.