The October DMP survey was conducted between 8 and 22 October and received 2,929 responses.
In October, businesses estimated that their sales in 2021 Q3 would be 4% lower than they otherwise would have been because of Covid-19, with investment 9% lower and employment 3% lower.
In the latest survey, businesses’ near-term expectations for the impact of Covid on sales and investment were less negative than in September, although there was less of a change for investment. The impact of Covid on sales was expected to ease from -4% in 2021 Q3 to -3% in 2021 Q4, up from -8% and -6% respectively in the September survey.
In October, Covid was expected to lower investment by 9% in 2021 Q3, an upwards revision from the 11% decline expected for 2021 Q3 in the September survey. The expected impact of Covid on investment in 2021 Q4 remained steady in the October survey at -7%. That drag on investment was expected to reverse in the medium term, with investment expected to be 1% higher in 2022 and beyond compared with what it would have been without Covid, a fall of 1 percentage point from the September survey.
Firms reported improving expectations for near-term employment impacts from Covid. Businesses expected employment to be around 3% lower due to Covid in both 2021 Q3 and 2021 Q4. This was an improvement on expected impacts of -6% and -5% in 2021 Q3 and 2021 Q4 respectively, reported in the September survey. Firms continued to expect employment to be 2% lower in the medium-term (in 2022 and beyond).
The percentage of workers on premises was reported to have risen to 74% in October, up from 70% in the previous month. It was expected to rise to 76% in December and 80% in 2022 and beyond.
In October, 83% of firms reported they are currently finding it harder to recruit new employees compared to normal, with 55% reporting it to be much harder. Additionally, 57% of firms reported in October that they had suffered disruption to the availability of non-labour inputs over the past month, with 10% of firms reporting that this had affected over half of their non-labour inputs.
Annual price inflation continued to increase in the DMP, reaching 4.5% on average in the three months to October, up by 0.6 percentage points on September (the single-month number for October was higher by 0.9 percentage points at 5.5%). Year-ahead annual price inflation was expected to be 3.9% in the three months to October 2022, up from 3.5% in the September survey.
Overall uncertainty continued to tick up in October, with the percentage of businesses that viewed the overall level of uncertainty facing their business as high or very high up to 55% in October, 5 percentage points higher than the previous month. Covid continued to remain the largest source of uncertainty for 16% of businesses, whilst the share of firms reporting that Covid was in in their top three sources of uncertainty fell to 50%, down from 57% in the previous month. The share of firms that reported Brexit in their top three sources of uncertainty was 38% in October, 3 percentage points lower than the previous month.