The July DMP survey was conducted between 2 and 16 July and received 3,036 responses.
In July, businesses estimated that their sales in 2021 Q3 would be 3% lower than they otherwise would have been because of Covid, with investment 6% lower and employment 2% lower.
In the latest survey, businesses’ near-term expectations for the impact of Covid on sales and employment were substantially revised upwards, potentially reflecting renewed economic optimism due to fewer hospitalizations and deaths from the Delta variant than previously feared. The impact of Covid on sales was expected to ease from -3% in 2021 Q3 to -1% in 2021 Q4, up from -7% and -5% respectively in the June survey.
In July, Covid was expected to lower investment by 6% in 2021 Q3 and 3% in 2021 Q4, up from -10% and -7% respectively in June. That drag on investment was expected to reverse in the medium term, with investment expected to be 2% higher in 2022 and beyond compared to what it would have been without Covid.
Firms also reported improvements in near-term employment impacts from Covid. Businesses expected employment to be around 2% lower due to Covid in 2021 Q3, and 1% lower in 2021 Q4, up from -4% and -3% respectively in the June survey.
The percentage of employees on full-time furlough (still employed but not required to work any hours) fell to 2% in July, from 3% in June. The percentage of workers on premises was expected to remain stable at 64% in July and rise to 79% in 2021 Q4, the highest level since the beginning of the pandemic. Increased staff absences were reported in all industries, but were larger in manufacturing and consumer-facing industries, in which there is less capacity for workers to work remotely when self-isolating. Firms expected the staff absence rate to remain around 2% in 2021 Q4.
Overall uncertainty rose marginally in July, with the percentage of businesses that viewed the overall level of uncertainty facing their business as high or very high up to 52% in July, 2 percentage points higher than the previous month. Covid remained the largest source of uncertainty for 24% of businesses, down slightly from 25% in June. The share of firms reporting Covid in the top 3 sources of uncertainty fell to 66%, down from 68% in the previous month. The share of firms who reported Brexit in their top three sources of uncertainty was 34% in June, 1 percentage point lower than the previous month.