Nearly two thirds of businesses surveyed by InterTrade Ireland said they are in stable or growth mode, in a further sign that recovery is taking hold.
Optimism levels were higher in the Republic of Ireland than in Northern Ireland with 65% of businesses here describing themselves as stable or in growth, compared to 56% of firms in the North.
“We have been continuously impressed by businesses’ resilience in the face of extremely challenging circumstances,” said Kerry Curran, InterTradeIreland’s Acting Director of Strategy and Policy.
“While we welcome some signals that the economic outlook is starting to look a bit brighter – the nascent recovery looks uneven across sectors, as leisure and hospitality continue to be hampered by the impact of Covid-19.”
More than half of the 775 businesses surveyed said they are currently fully operational.
That rose to 63% of manufacturing firms, and 72% of professional services companies, but rates were as low as 12% in the hospitality sector.
Two out of five respondents said rising costs are an issue they are facing, with levels higher in manufacturing, retail and construction.
While nearly two thirds of retail and manufacturing firms said the impact of Brexit continues to be an issue.
Over half of firms in Northern Ireland are concerned about the out workings of Brexit, compared to 41% in the Republic.
In relation to employment levels, three quarters of those who took part in the survey said they were maintaining staffing.
However, the organisation said it is likely these employment levels may fluctuate in the second half of the year as government supports and furlough schemes scale back.
“What is an extremely encouraging sign is that companies are preparing for growth, with over half of firms planning to invest in the year ahead,” Mr Curran said.
“Over a third of businesses intend to spend on marketing and over a quarter in digital and new technologies – this is also likely to be in response to Covid-19.”