Entrepreneurs optimistic about 2019

© Nikki van Toorn
For 2019, entrepreneurs in the non-financial private sector expect higher turnover, staff increases and higher investments than in 2018. Aside from positive expectations for next year, more and more businesses indicate they are affected by staff shortages. At the beginning of Q4 2018, 26 percent of entrepreneurs were hampered in the business operations as a result. This is reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KvK), the Economic Institute for Construction and Housing (EIB), the Dutch Organisation for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MKB-Nederland) and the Dutch Employers’ Organisation (VNO-NCW) on the basis of newly released figures in the Netherlands Business Survey (COEN).

Entrepreneurs are positive about the expected turnover in 2019. On balance, 30 percent are anticipating turnover growth. Optimism is most prevalent in retail trade, where 43 percent of entrepreneurs expect turnover to increase. The private sector is also positive about employment opportunities. On balance, 17 percent of enterprises expect to expand their workforce next year. The demand for labour is highest in the sector information and communication (31 percent). Investments for 2019 are expected to be higher than in 2018 among 19 percent of businesses; lower investments are anticipated by 11 percent.

Entrepreneurs' expectations for 2019 (balance % of businesses)
Non-financial private sector30.417.28.5
Retail trade (excl. cars)43.115.812.4
Information and communication41.831.47.6
Wholesale and commission trade39.614.37.8
Business services3220.73
Car trade and repairs29.217.46.1
Transport and storage22.66.54.8
Real estate, renting and business activities22.219.927.4
Accommodation and food services16.88.44.7
Agriculture, forestry and fisheries15.512.6-1.4
Mining and quarrying-28.5-34.756.7
Source: CBS, EIB, KVK, MKB-Nederland, VNO-NCW

Businesses face growing shortage of staff

At the start of Q4 2018, 26 percent of enterprises in the non-financial private sector were facing impediments to their business operations as a result of understaffing. The number of enterprises reporting shortages has increased continuously over the past period. At the start of 2016, less than 5 percent of enterprises reported staff shortages as being an impediment.

Entrepreneurs reporting staff shortages (% of enterprises)
2012 Q13.7
2012 Q23.9
2012 Q34.2
2012 Q44.1
2013 Q12.7
2013 Q22.8
2013 Q32.5
2013 Q43.1
2014 Q12.5
2014 Q22.8
2014 Q33.3
2014 Q43.7
2015 Q12.7
2015 Q23.1
2015 Q34.3
2015 Q45.3
2016 Q14.6
2016 Q25.4
2016 Q36.7
2016 Q48.3
2017 Q18.7
2017 2e kwartaal10.4
2017 3e kwartaal15.6
2017 4e kwartaal16.5
2018 1e kwartaal18.4
2018 2e kwartaal20
2018 3e kwartaal25.2
2018 4e kwartaal25.9
Source: CBS, EIB, KVK, MKB-Nederland, VNO-NCW

Understaffing most significant in transport and business services

In the sectors transport and business services, 35 percent of entrepreneurs reported staff shortages as a hindering factor in their business activities. These deficits are also above-average in the sectors construction, accommodation and food services, and information and communication. Staffing deficits were cited least frequently in the mining and quarrying sector (12 percent).

Entrepreneurs reporting staff shortages (% of enterprises)
 Q4 2018Q3 2018
Non-financial private sector25.925.2
Transport and storage34.831.8
Business services34.734.5
Accommodation and food services30.325.9
Information and communication28.229.3
Car trade and repair24.122.3
Manufacturing 22.120.6
Real estate, renting and business activities19.414.8
Wholesale trade17.717
Retail trade (excl. cars)1611.3
Agriculture, forestry and fisheries15.114
Mining and quarrying12.16.7
Source: CBS, EIB, KVK, MKB-Nederland, VNO-NCW

Business confidence remains high

Since 2014, the mood among Dutch entrepreneurs has been positive without interruption. At the start of Q4 2018, the business confidence indicator stood at 13.4, a slightly lower level than in the previous quarter but still historically high. Since measurements started in 2008, the highest level was reached in Q1 with 18.9.

Business confidence
 QuarterBusiness confidence
2012 Q1-6.3
2012 Q2-6.8
2012 Q3-8.6
2012 Q4-9.2
2013 Q1-10.7
2013 Q2-11.7
2013 Q3-8.7
2013 Q4-2.7
2014 Q11.6
2014 Q24.7
2014 Q32.9
2014 Q44.9
2015 Q15.6
2015 Q25.4
2015 Q38.7
2015 Q47.4
2016 Q19.3
2016 Q28.8
2016 Q37.9
2016 Q49.2
2017 Q114.7
2017 Q215.5
2017 Q315.9
2017 Q413.4
2018 Q118.1
2018 Q214.2
2018 Q315
2018 Q413.4
Source: CBS, EIB, KVK, MKB-Nederland, VNO-NCW

Business confidence in the construction sector, came to 33.3 at the start of Q4. This means that the mood of entrepreneurs in this sector is most positive of all entrepreneurs in the non-financial private sector. At 18.4, business confidence in wholesale is above average. However, as a result of less positive signals regarding expected turnover, the confidence indicator is nearly 10 points lower than in Q3. Confidence in the sectors information and communication, business services and real estate activities also declined substantially.

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