Private sector 'is showing growth'
Research from the UK's Department for Business has found the number of private sector businesses in Northern Ireland has gone up by 1,000.
The report shows Northern Ireland is ahead of Wales and Scotland in the numbers of private sector employers per head of population.
There are around 861 private enterprises in the province per 10,000 adults, compared to 673 in Scotland and 784 in Wales.
Paul McBride, a corporate partner in the Belfast office of Scotland-based law firm McGrigors, said the figures are "encouraging".
"There is obviously a lot of concern around about the ability of the private sector to soak up job losses in the public sector," he said.
"While we can't read too much into these results, we should take pride in the fact that - despite challenging trading conditions - the number of private sector businesses continues to grow.
"That suggests that start-ups are out-pacing insolvencies, and that can only be a good thing."
The report from the Department for Business, Innnovation and Skills indicates a continuing prevalence of construction firms, which account for just under a quarter of private sector organisations.
Mr McBride added: "These are important figures which feed into government policy at a local and devolved level.
"Clearly what we are seeing is some growth, but what we need to do next is ensure that those private sector companies are allowed to flourish in a way that allows them to expand and take on more staff."