Monthly Decision Maker Panel data - March 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 01 April 2021

The March DMP survey was conducted between 5 and 19 March and received 3,116 responses. 

In March, businesses estimated that their sales in 2021 Q1 would be 20% lower than they otherwise would have been because of Covid-19, with employment 9% lower and investment 21% lower.

Near-term sales expectations were unchanged in March for 2021 Q2 and 2021 Q3, for the second month in a row, but longer-term sales expectations declined slightly. The impact of Covid-19 on sales was expected to ease during 2021 from -20% in 2021 Q1 to -11% in 2021 Q2,-6% in 2021 Q3 and -1% in 2022 and beyond.  

In March, the estimated impact of Covid-19 on employment was less negative than in the February survey. Businesses’ expectations on the near-term impact of Covid-19 on employment in 2021 Q1 and Q2 improved by 1 percentage point to -9% and -7% respectively, with expectations for 2021 Q3 and 2022 and beyond improving by 2 percentage points to -4% and -1% respectively.

The percentage of employees on full-time furlough (still employed but not required to work any hours) remained broadly stable at 14% in March. 

In March, businesses expected 2021 Q1 investment to be 21% lower than it would have been due to Covid-19, a 1 percentage point improvement on February expectations. Investment expectations for 2021 Q2 and Q3 improved more substantially to -12% and -4% respectively, up 5 and 7 percentage points respectively on February expectations. Longer-term expectations for 2022 and beyond were positive for the first time, with firms expecting investment to be around 2% higher than in the absence of Covid-19.

Overall uncertainty continued to fall in March. The percentage of businesses that viewed overall economic uncertainty as high or very high fell from 67% in January and 58% in February to 57% in March, the lowest level since February 2020. Covid-19 remained the largest source of uncertainty for 40% of businesses, and in the top 3 sources for around 74%, down from 47% and 82% respectively in February.

Brexit related uncertainty also fell in March, with 41% of businesses reporting that Brexit was in their top three sources of uncertainty, down from 43% in February. The share of firms which reported Brexit as their largest source of uncertainty remained unchanged at 4%.

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.