Business confidence, the indicator reflecting the mood in the Dutch private sector, is highest among construction companies, followed by wholesale traders and enterprises in business services. There is a positive mood across all sectors of industry, while confidence is higher compared to Q4 2017. Last month, CBS reported that confidence levels among manufacturers were even at their highest level since 1985, when monitoring in that sector began.
In Q4 2017, staff numbers were up on the previous quarter among 27 percent of all enterprises. The reverse was true for 10 percent, however. Furthermore, the outlook for the first few months of 2018 is also favourable; on balance, 16 percent of enterprises expect staff numbers to increase. At 35 percent, the share of enterprises expecting to hire more staff is largest in the construction sector.
A shortage of qualified personnel constitutes a growing obstacle to many companies. At the beginning of 2018, 18 percent of enterprises indicated that conducting business activities was hampered by a shortage of workers. This was the case for only 5 percent of enterprises at the start of 2016. The number of companies encountering such obstacles has grown continuously since then. Temporary employment agencies as well as IT service providers are encountering the greatest labour shortages at 58 and 42 percent respectively.
Profitability has improved
For 26 percent of all enterprises, profitability increased in the last three months of 2017. The number of companies indicating improved profitability was higher than ever since measurement started in 2008. The number of companies which saw profitability decline was smaller than ever at 8 percent. There was improvement across nearly all sectors. The highest share with improved profitability was seen in the sector information and communication. This sector was followed by business services, wholesale traders and construction companies.
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