Monthly Decision Maker Panel data - April 2021

The Decision Maker Panel (DMP) is a survey of Chief Financial Officers from small, medium and large UK businesses. We use it to monitor developments in the economy and to track businesses’ views.
Published on 06 May 2021

The April DMP survey was conducted between 1 and 16 April and received 3,039 responses.

In April, businesses reported an improvement in near-term expectations across sales, employment and investment. Businesses estimated that their sales in 2021 Q1 were 19% lower than they otherwise would have been because of Covid-19, with employment 7% lower and investment 18% lower.

Near-term sales expectations improved in April for 2021 Q2 and 2021 Q3, with the impact of Covid-19 on sales expected to ease during 2021 from -19% in 2021 Q1 to -10% in 2021 Q2 and -4% in 2021 Q3. Longer-term expectations for the impact of Covid-19 on sales in 2022 and beyond remained stable at -1%.

In April, the estimated impact of Covid-19 on employment was revised up in the near-term. Businesses’ expectations on the impact of Covid-19 on employment in 2021 Q1 and Q2 rose to -7% and -5% respectively. Expectations for 2021 Q3 remained stable at -4%, but longer-term expectations for 2022 and beyond were slightly lower at -2%.

The percentage of employees on full-time furlough (still employed but not required to work any hours) fell to 9% in April, from 14% in March. The percentage of workers on premises was expected to rise to 65% in June and 76% in 2021 Q3, the highest level since the beginning of the pandemic.

In April, investment expectations for both 2021 Q1 and 2021 Q2 improved by 4 percentage points compared with March. Businesses expected investment to be 18% lower than it would otherwise have been due to Covid-19 in 2021 Q1, and 9% lower in 2021 Q2. Expectations for 2021 Q3 also improved to -4%, up 1 percentage point versus March. Longer-term expectations for 2022 and beyond remained positive, with firms expecting investment to be around 1% higher than in the absence of Covid-19.

Businesses expect investment to be around 7% higher than it otherwise would have been between April 2021 and March 2023, due to measures announced in the March 2021 Budget. Investment brought forward from after March 2023 contributed around a third of this and the remaining two-thirds reflected additional investment that was previously not in the pipeline.

Overall uncertainty continued to fall in April. The percentage of firms that viewed the overall level of uncertainty facing their business as high or very high fell to 51% in April, the lowest level since February 2020. Covid-19 remained the largest source of uncertainty for 34% of businesses, and in the top 3 sources for around 70%, down from 39% and 74% respectively in April.

The share of firms that reported Brexit in their top three sources of uncertainty fell to 34% in April, a 6 percentage point drop from March and 13 percentage points lower than in December 2020.

The DMP was set up in August 2016 by the Bank of England together with academics from Stanford University and the University of Nottingham. It was designed to be representative of the population of UK businesses. All results are weighted. See Bloom et al (2017) for more details.

The DMP receives funding from the Economic and Social Research Council.