More of us expect economy to dip rather than improve
ONE-FIFTH of Irish people said they think Ireland's economic situation will improve, four times more than this time last year and more than the European average, according to new research.
The bad news is that another two-thirds still feel the economy will decline.
We are still far less confident about our country's current position than the rest of Europe.
The latest Eurobarometer survey found that just 7pc of Irish people felt the country's economy was in good health, down 1pc since last year and well below the EU average of 26pc, itself a poor result.
The results, compiled using responses from 33,000 EU citizens, are more dramatic when compared to Sweden and Germany, where more than three-quarters of those surveyed were confident in their economy.
Ireland barely escaped the EU bottom five. There are now six countries where less than 5pc of the population are positive about their economy: Greece, Spain, Slovenia, Portugal, Bulgaria and Cyprus.
The big differences evident between EU countries have tended to widen since last year.
Unemployment is Irish people's biggest economic concern, cited by 67pc, compared to an EU average of 51pc. Joblessness continues to widen its lead as the single most important issue for European citizens.
Other concerns, like rising prices and government debt, have all lost ground. Germany is now the only country where rising state debt is the biggest concern.
Most still think the worst of the jobs crisis is yet to come. The majority held this view in 19 countries, including more than two-thirds in Cyprus, Portugal and Slovenia. Just eight member states thought unemployment had reached its peak.
But though most of Ireland still thinks the worst is yet to come, this view is becoming less pronounced. The numbers expecting it to improve, while still in the minority, are increasing. The amount of people expecting it to worsen (four fifths) is declining.
"The labour market has been performing quite well of late, and our view would be that the worst of the unemployment crisis is behind us now. We expect marginal employment growth this year, accelerating through 2014, which would be at odds with the pessimistic labour markets results in the survey," said Davy stockbrokers' David McNamara.
Inflation is the biggest issue affecting us at a personal level, but less so than elsewhere in Europe. Some 35pc cited inflation as a personal concern, compared to a 41pc European average.
Ireland also fared badly in relation to personal finance. Two-fifths of the Irish surveyed said they lived day-by-day, compared to 35pc in the rest of Europe. Just 23pc said they had a long-term perspective of what their household would be like in the next two years compared to an EU average of 30pc.