Business activity in Northern Ireland grows grown sharply for ninth month in a row
Business activity in Northern Ireland has grown sharply for the ninth month in a row thanks to an influx of new orders, a bellwether survey said.
The Ulster Bank Northern Ireland Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) said cost inflation had also eased for private sector firms.
All four monitored sectors – manufacturing, construction, retail and services – registered growth of activity in February, with retail leading the way.
New orders were coming in, helping the rise in activity, and things were also improving for the construction sector.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said: "Northern Ireland's private sector firms have now reported an increase in business activity, employment and export orders for eight consecutive months. Meanwhile the level of new orders rose in February for the ninth month in a row."
He said that the pace of growth eased in February but it was still steady – the strongest new order growth and expansion of business in a decade during January had created a hard act to follow.
Britain and the Republic, Northern Ireland's main trading partners, also experienced an easing in the pace of their increase in business activity and new orders.
Northern Ireland firms also reported an easing in the pace of job creation in February, after a six-and-a-half-year high in January.
Mr Ramsey said input cost inflation had eased in February, to its weakest rate since July 2012 –mainly due to an easing of cost pressures in the service sector.
But Northern Ireland firms had also lowered their output prices in February for the first time in seven months, mainly due to price reductions in the service sector.
Mr Ramsey said: "Whilst all sectors continue to report strong rates of growth, the retail sector reported the fastest rates of growth in output (sales), new orders and job creation."