The February DMP survey was conducted between 4 and 18 February and received 2,699 responses.
In February, businesses estimated that their sales in 2022 Q1 would be 7% lower than they otherwise would have been because of Covid-19, with investment 6% lower and employment 4% lower.
In the latest survey, businesses’ near-term expectations for the impact of Covid on sales, employment and investment were broadly unchanged relative to expectations reported in the January survey. In February, the impact of Covid on sales was expected to be slightly larger in 2022 Q1 and 2022 Q2, at -7% and -4% respectively, compared with -6% and -3% in the January survey. Businesses anticipated this impact on sales to be 0% in 2022 Q3, with the expected impact of Covid-19 on medium-term sales, for 2023 and beyond, remaining stable at 1%.
In February, businesses’ expectations for the near-term impact of Covid on investment improved slightly. Investment in 2022 Q1 was expected to be around 6% lower than in the absence of Covid, compared with -7% in the January survey, with this impact anticipated to ease to -1% in 2022 Q2, up from -3% in the January survey. The impact on investment was expected to be 0% in 2022 Q3, rising to 1.4% higher than in the absence of Covid in 2023 and beyond.
Firms reported broadly unchanged expectations for the impact of Covid on employment. Businesses expected employment to be 4% lower due to Covid in 2022 Q1, compared with -3% in the January survey, whilst expectations for 2022 Q2 remained stable at -2%. In February, firms anticipated that the impact of Covid on employment would reach -1% in 2022 Q3, with this impact reversing in the medium-term to be around 1% higher for 2023 and beyond, up from -1% in the January survey.
The percentage of workers on business premises was reported to have risen to 72% in February, up from 64% in January, as Government guidance for workers across the UK to work remotely where possible ended prior to the start of the survey window. The share of workers who were unable to work (due to factors including sickness, self-isolation, and childcare) also fell in February to 4%, down from 6% in January.
In February, 86% of firms reported they were finding it harder to recruit new employees compared to normal, with 59% reporting it to be much harder, up from 55% in the previous month. The percentage of non-labour inputs being disrupted was little changed at 13% in February, whilst the proportion of firms suffering some form of disruption to their non-labour inputs also remained stable at around two-thirds.
Annual output price inflation continued to increase in the DMP, reaching 5.4% on average in the three months to February, up by 0.3 percentage points on January. Expected year-ahead annual output price inflation also rose to 4.8% in the three months to February 2023, up from 4.5% in January.
Overall uncertainty fell back in February, with the percentage of businesses that viewed the overall level of uncertainty facing their business as high or very high at 49%, down from 54% in the previous month. Covid-related uncertainty also fell in February, with 14% of firms reporting it as their top source of uncertainty, down from 23% in January. The share of firms that reported Brexit in their top three sources of uncertainty was 29% in February, down from 34% in January.