The September DMP survey was conducted between 3 and 17 September and received 2,868 responses.
In September, businesses estimated that their sales in 2021 Q3 would be 8% lower than they otherwise would have been because of Covid-19, with investment 11% lower and employment 6% lower.
In the latest survey, businesses’ near-term expectations for the impact of Covid on sales and investment were revised downwards, although there was less of a change for employment. The impact of Covid on sales was expected to ease from -8% in 2021 Q3 to -6% in 2021 Q4, a slightly bigger reduction compared with -7% and -4% respectively in the August survey.
In September, Covid was expected to lower investment by 11% in 2021 Q3 and 7% in 2021 Q4, a larger decline than the -7% and -5% respectively in August. That drag on investment was expected to reverse in the medium term, with investment expected to be 2% higher in 2022 and beyond compared with what it would have been without Covid.
Firms reported broadly stable expectations for near-term employment impacts from Covid. Businesses continued to expect employment to be around 6% lower due to Covid in 2021 Q3. In September, firms expected Covid to cause slightly more of a drag on employment in 2021 Q4 compared with the August survey, with a fall from -4% to -5%. Firms continued to expect employment to be 2% lower in the medium-term (in 2022 and beyond).
The percentage of employees on full-time furlough (still employed but not required to work any hours) fell to 1% in September, from 2% in August. The percentage of workers on premises was reported to have risen to 70% in September, up from 66% in the previous month. It was expected to rise to 75% in 2021 Q4 and 80% in 2022 and beyond.
Annual price inflation continued to increase in the DMP, reaching 3.9% on average in the three months to September, up by 0.5 percentage points on August (the single-month number for September was higher by 1.1 percentage points at 4.6%). Year-ahead annual price inflation was expected to be 3.5% in the three months to September 2022, up from 3.2% in the August survey.
Overall uncertainty ticked up in September, with the percentage of businesses that viewed the overall level of uncertainty facing their business as high or very high up to 50% in September, 3 percentage points higher than the previous month. Covid remained the largest source of uncertainty for 16% of businesses, down from 25% in August. The share of firms reporting that Covid was in in their top three sources of uncertainty fell to 57%, down from 62% in the previous month. The share of firms that reported Brexit in their top three sources of uncertainty was 41% in September, 5 percentage points higher than the previous month.