Northern Ireland’s private sector has declined at its fastest pace since February, it has emerged.
The grim findings for June also show the province has not recorded growth since November 2007 in comparision to the UK as a whole which posted its 14th successive monthly rise in business activity.
Commenting on the latest Ulster Bank Northern Ireland Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), the bank’s chief economist Richard Ramsey said: “The latest survey continues to show the growing divergence in performance between the Northern Ireland and UK economies.
“Furthermore, while UK firms reported a further rise in employment levels and robust growth in new orders in June, their Northern Ireland counterparts saw the rate of decline accelerate in both these areas.”
Although there are fears of a double-dip recession, Mr Ramsey claimed it was debatable whether Northern Ireland actually exited recession with the rest of the UK.
“Given the absence of a meaningful recovery during the first half of 2010, unlike the UK, it now looks increasingly likely that Northern Ireland will see a further contraction in economic growth, albeit marginal, in 2010,” he said.
“This would represent a third successive year of economic decline and compares with just one year of contraction in the UK.”
There are also fears for the future of the services and construction sectors, which have borne the brunt of the recession.
Mr Ramsey said: “What is concerning is the accelerated fall in new orders and employment levels in the services and construction sectors. New orders in the services sector and construction industry are falling at their sharpest rates since March 2009 and June 2009 respectively.
“These two sectors are already in an extremely weak state and they are the most exposed to public expenditure. What is clear though is that significant job losses in these sectors are inevitable.”