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INS – Context survey: stability or even stagnation, employees about the same but all prices up!

de Marin Pana , 5.2.2018

According to the perception of managers from the field, the manufacturing industry will register a relative stability of production volume in the following months (conjuncture balance + 4%) and the only notable decrease is for the tobacco production (conjuncture balance -33%). The number of employees would remain unchanged (balance of 0%).

The INS survey to evaluate economic activity trends in the first quarter of this year also shows a stability in the services field (balance of 0% in turnover), with a moderate increase in the number of employees (balance +6 %).

The other field with some extra jobs (balance + 3%) would be the retail, although managers expect a moderate decline in the merchandise sales (-7%), hence a corresponding decrease in the volume of orders to the suppliers of goods (balance -8%).

Explained by the seasonality but quite pronounced in amplitude, construction field shows the only clear decline in the activity according to the expectations (balance -18%), hence a decrease in the number of employees (balance -14%) is expected.

Not growth decline is the problem…

Although the four main fields of activity show various trends in terms of activity volume and number of employees, all managers agree on a very important thing: prices will increase, either moderately or more pronounced, over the next period. Positive percentages in opinion balances are 9% in services, 14% in manufacturing, 19% in construction, and beware of the pocket 22% in retail.

Overall, the picture of a relative stagnation in the volume of activity and the total number of employees is taking shape, due to some price increases that will be reflected in lower sales compared to the end of last year.

Given that the economic growth rate was expected to decline in the fourth quarter of 2017 compared to the same quarter of the previous year, we can expect for the economic activity’s tendency of settling closer to the sustainable growth rates to continue (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

The resumption of the continued GDP growth from one quarter to the next in the past year is becoming more plausible in the reverse direction. And that is precisely because of the unfavourable base effect created by the successive evolutions that have been registered, until recently, at the level of the quarterly growth rates.

Under these circumstances, the problems that may arise are not so much in the decline of the economic growth but in the previously induced imbalances, reflected also in the inflation that will temporarily rise (hopefully) within the 2.5% plus/minus 1% target range and, especially in the budgetary commitments assumed, based on the idea that we would continue indefinitely to have a very high growth rate.

Methodological explanations

The responses received (the managers of the enterprises in the sample surveyed choose only one answer to this type of question) are then processed and the outcome is obtained as a percentage based conjuncture balance, obtained as a difference between the share of those who chose the positive option of the phenomenon and the share of those who indicated the negative option.

The following thresholds for the interpretation of the conjuncture balances have been agreed (set): up to ± 5% relative stability; from ± 6% to ± 15% moderate increase or moderate decrease, respectively; from ± 16% to ± 40% increase or decrease, respectively; more than ± 40% sharp increase or sharp decrease, respectively.

Surveys were based on representative samples in the fields of manufacturing (2253 companies), construction (1240), retail (2207) and services (2516). The size of samples has been set so that the maximum permissible error to be ± 5% at the sector level overall. The context surveys are conducted within a co-financed project, with the contribution of the European Commission – DG ECFIN (Brussels).

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