Economy here picking up but global outlook remains gloomy
Northern Ireland's economy is showing signs of improvement but risks remain in the global economy, according to a survey of nearly 450 businesses.
The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce's quarterly economic survey uncovered some positive indicators for manufacturing and services in the second quarter of the year.
Manufacturing picked up compared to the first quarter, and both domestic and export sales grew. Orders were in the black and domestic manufacturing orders higher than the UK average.
Improvements in the service sector – which accounts for businesses from restaurants to law firms – were not quite as acute but the signs were still good, said the survey carried out in association with business advisers BDO.
Chamber boss Anne McGregor said: "The survey continues to show welcome progress for the latest quarter. If this progress can be sustained then there are realistic hopes that growth forecasts will be revised upwards.
"However, the recovery still faces major risks including global financial turmoil, eurozone issues and domestic inflation.
"Business rates are a source of increasing concern amongst the survey's respondents and we welcome enhanced businesses rates relief which formed part of the economic pact."
She said the chamber also welcomed the consideration given to enterprise zones in last month's pact, but that Northern Ireland should be a single enterprise zone. "Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce believes that a number of zones across Northern Ireland will simply displace investment.
"This view also seems to resonate with the majority of businesses who responded to the survey. We therefore recommend that an enterprise zone is established right across Northern Ireland to help stimulate job creation and grow the private sector."
She said the Assembly should take the initiative in ensuring an enterprise zone becomes a reality.
Nigel Harra, senior partner and head of audit at BDO, said: "Both domestic and export balances are firmly in positive territory although local manufacturers appear to have some concerns going forward.
"The service sector balances are also positive but at a much lower level. However, service firms are feeling more confident and that is encouraging as we enter the second half of the year."