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Northern Ireland services sector now lagging behind rest of the UK

By Staff Reporter

Northern Ireland services firms are growing at a weaker rate than their UK counterparts, which have enjoyed their first expansion in four months, it's been claimed.

The latest Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) survey for the services sector showed a reading of 54.9 last month, up from a two-and-a-half-year low of 53.3 in September. A figure above 50 indicates growth.

But Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said performance for the sector - which embraces everything from estate agents to restaurants - was likely to be slower in Northern Ireland because the province is more sensitive to changes in public spending.

However, employment growth in services in Northern Ireland was holding up.

And he said while consumers were benefiting from increased spending power because of a lack of inflation, service sector firms' input costs - including wages - were going up.

And in the UK, the rate of expansion remains the second weakest since May 2013.

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