Signs that business is 'holding its breath'
Business growth is at its lowest in five years and confidence is increasingly strained across the island of Ireland, according to research from InterTrade Ireland.
After years of sustained growth, especially in the Republic, a majority of firms across the island remain very stable. However, levels of growth are declining sharply in Ireland, according to the latest quarterly InterTrade Ireland Business Monitor Report.
Construction, which is key to Government plans to deliver housing and infrastructure, is showing particular signs of slower momentum.
The number of building firms that regard themselves as being in a "growth position" fell back to 16pc from 42pc at the end of 2017.
One-in-five firms in the sector said they were operating below capacity, and just 4pc are reporting an increase in sales.
The research for the period from January to the end of March found a consistent decline in growth across both large and small companies across sectors.
InterTrade Ireland said there's no sign of contraction, but there is evidence businesses across the island are taking a collective pause on many key decisions.
"Overall, there is a sense that business across the island is holding its breath and we are at a cross-roads," Aidan Gough, InterTrade Ireland director of strategy and policy, said.
"While this is in no way cause for alarm, we also see that companies in growth mode is at the lowest mark since 2009," he said.
After strong growth south of the Border in particular, firms now face the spectre of inflation, salary increases and uncertainty around Brexit, he said.