Businesses see rise in new orders
Businesses in Northern Ireland have witnessed an increase in new orders for nine successive months, figures have indicated.
The rising demand for products and services has been a factor achieving growth in overall business activity in the private sector for eight months in a row, according to the Ulster Bank's Purchasing Managers Index (PMI).
The index, which provides a bench-marked assessment of economic activity in Northern Ireland every month, found that firms had taken on more staff in February, though at a less marked rate than the rest of the UK.
The sharpest job creation was seen at retailers.
The index also noted a marked easing in cost inflation across business in Northern Ireland in February.
Richard Ramsey, a chief economist at Ulster Bank, said while rates of business growth had eased slightly on January's performance, they remained strong.
"Northern Ireland's broad based economic recovery continued last month with all sectors posting further growth in business activity, employment and new orders," he 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.
"Whilst the pace of growth in business activity and new orders eased last month, the rates of growth still remain very strong.
"After all, the January survey saw new order growth at a record high and business activity expanded at its fastest rate in almost 10-years. Therefore the slight slowdown in growth in these two areas is coming from a very strong position.
"The UK and the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland's two key trading partners, also saw an easing in the pace of growth in business activity and new orders in their February PMI surveys, whilst local firms reported an easing in the pace of job creation in February, down from January's six-and-a-half-year high."